Jerry Sandusky Returns to Court
Jerry Sandusky was a free man Friday, if only for a few hours.
His pant legs flapped, strands of his old white hair hung freely above his forehead and his eyes nearly closed shut as he stared the wind into its crisp whip.
This chance to talk was fleeting. He's on house arrest, and even when he steps outside to help his wife shovel snow or onto his back deck, there are some who take issue.
“Our home has been open for 27 years to all kinds of people, hundreds of people who have stayed there, more than that who have visited that I’ve associated with, thousands of young people over years,” Sandusky said. “Now all of a sudden because of allegations and perceptions that have tried to been created of me, now I can’t take my dog on my deck and throw out biscuits to him.
“Now all of a sudden these people turn on me when they’ve been in my home with their kids and they’ve attended birthday parties where they’ve been on that deck, where their kids have been playing in my yard and when their kids have been sled riding when they’ve asked to sled ride at our home.”
The man facing more than 50 criminal counts in a child-sexual-abuse case was in court again Friday morning, 60 days after he spent less than a minute in the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte on Dec. 13 before waiving his preliminary hearing.
This time, the hearing lasted a little more than an hour, Sandusky took the witness stand for a brief period to make certain he was OK with a local jury for his trial that could begin in May and then made a three-and-a-half minute statement about the other issue pertinent to the hearing: changing his bail conditions so he can see his grandchildren.
“When [Dottie] comes home from visiting with grandchildren and tells me that one of them said, ‘The only thing I want for my birthday is to be able to see Pop,’ I’m sensitive to that,” Sandusky said outside the courthouse. “That’s why I came today.”
He arrived in Courtroom No. 1 at 9:32 a.m., gave a quick, nervous look to the 70 or so reporters and members of the public seated and then headed into a pre-hearing conference room followed by Dottie, his wife, who was dressed in a light green suit.
Sandusky, 68, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie patterned with blue diamonds, looked toward his counsel, gave a slight shrug of his shoulders and lightly rocked in his chair after hearing a prosecutor recount testimony that children would see Sandusky on his back deck from inside a classroom of an elementary school that borders his house.
“That man is out there,” one child would say, according to prosecutors. Soon, all the children would get up from their desks and crowd the window to see for themselves, disrupting class.
Four minutes later, Sandusky looked forward with a blank stare as prosecutors said Jill Thomas, the ex-wife of one of Sandusky’s children, had told them her three children were recommended to undergo psychological treatment because of their contact with Sandusky. Thomas strenuously objects to any contact between her children and Sandusky, prosecutors said.
Sandusky, his hand resting on the left side of his wrinkled face, rubbed his chin. His face has more wrinkles now than it did in December. His gait is staggered and not quite as sure as it once was when he was pacing the sidelines of Beaver Stadium, maestro of Joe Paterno’s defenses.
“He’s concerned, he’s depressed, he’s sad he can’t see his own grandchildren, who wanna see him, and it’s heartbreaking to him every time a grandchild calls and is told by Jerry’s wife, ‘Jerry can’t talk to you because he’s not allowed to,’ ” his attorney, Joe Amendola, said. “And that breaks their heart. It breaks his heart. So this whole situation, being cast as a pedophile, has crippled his emotions.”
He showed life inside the courtroom, however. A soft grin crept across his face when prosecutors alleged he used his role within the Second Mile to find his victims. Sandusky has maintained his innocence since charges were filed Nov. 4.
At 11:16 a.m., Sandusky took the stand. In a light, barely audible voice from the middle of the courtroom, he swore to tell the truth.
He first took the wrong route to the witness stand, smiled, laughed and took a seat. He laughed when Judge John M. Cleland asked if the medication he takes affects his ability to think clearly.
“I don’t believe that they do,” Sandusky said. Amendola later did not say what Sandusky was taking medication for but said it was not mental health-related.
Ten minutes later, Sandusky stood up when court was adjourned, put his hands in his pockets and chatted with counsel.
He said he hasn’t received any threats nor made any promises to anyone in the event they were selected for jury duty. He said he spoke twice with Amendola about selecting jury members from Centre County.
“I trust him,” Sandusky said.
Outside the courthouse during his statement, Sandusky said former friends have turned their back on him.
He stepped back from the podium, was met by his wife and walked into the courthouse toward the back exit, where his attorney’s black SUV sat idle, ready to take Sandusky back home.