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New Judge Appointed in Jerry Sandusky Appeal

by on February 14, 2017 9:29 AM

After the judge who had overseen the Jerry Sandusky case from the start recused himself from further proceedings in November, Pennsylvania Supreme Court has appointed a new judge to preside in the ongoing appeal.

As of Feb. 8, Judge John H. Foradora of Jefferson County has been named the judge in the case as Sandusky continues his appeal under the Post Conviction Relief Act. Sandusky is arguing he received ineffective counsel before and during his 2012 trial, where he was convicted on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse.

Foradora, 50, is president judge for Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas, having first been elected to the bench in 2001. He currently is president of the Pennsylvania Conference State Trial Judges.

McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland presided over the case from the time Sandusky was bound over to trial in December 2011 until November 2016. The recusal stemmed from Sandusky's attorneys' arguments regarding a meeting in December 2011 at the State College Hilton Garden Inn, where Sandusky's trial attorney, Joe Amendola, reached an agreement with prosecutors for Sandusky to waive his preliminary hearing.

One of Sandusky's arguments is that Amendola failed him by waiving the hearing without adequately explaining the opportunities it might have afforded his defense.

Cleland was present at that meeting, which he said was conducted by Magisterial Senior Judge Robert E. Scott, who was appointed to specially preside over the preliminary hearing. Cleland denied a motion by Sandusky's attorneys in May 2016 for recusal, stating that he was there only to answer any logistical issues and that neither he nor Scott participated in negotiations.

Attorneys Al Lindsay and Andrew Salemme did not ask him to revisit the recusal motion, but rather later filed another brief suggesting Cleland violated judicial rules of conduct, claiming he participated in negotiations during an off-the-record meeting.

"Counsel has argued not only that the meeting between the lawyers and Judge Scott and me was unethical, but has also cast it in tones that would lead one to believe it was somehow sinister," Cleland stated.

Had he been notified that Sandusky's attorneys intended to argue his presence was unethical and they believed his testimony was warranted to address a factual dispute, Cleland said he would have revisited the recusal issue and agreed his testimony was relevant.

"Instead PCRA counsel have elected to call into question my fairness and impartiality without requesting my testimony, and by doing so have created a cloud over these proceedings," Cleland wrote in November. "It would be imprudent to allow such a cloud to linger and to permit it to cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the court, or any decision I would make on the merits of the defendant’s PCRA petition, especially when that cloud can be so easily dissipated by my voluntary recusal and by presenting my testimony before a judge appointed in my stead."

He wrote in a footnote of the filing that in studying the 34 issues raised by Sandusky and applicable laws, he did not believe any merit relief.  

Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in state prison, which he is serving at SCI-Greene in Waynesburg. His most recent filing in the case argues another point of alleged ineffective counsel -- that Amendola encouraged him to do a nationally-televised interview on NBC with Bob Costas with no preparation.

At an evidentiary hearing last year, Amendola testified that he thought the interview would help Sandusky because he was being portrayed as "worse than Hitler."

But Lindsey and Salemme claim in their latest filing that Amendola offered Sandusky "to curry favor with NBC" producers. Citing a Hollywood Reporter story, they say Amendola had promised to give NBC an exclusive interview but then first did an interview on CNN.

Having Sandusky do the interview, they say, wasn't to help his client's image, but rather to make up for his broken promise.

The interview was instantly notable for Sandusky's response when Costas asked him if he was sexually attracted to young boys.

"Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?" Sandusky answered. When Costas affirmed the question, Sandusky replied "Sexually attracted, you know, I, I enjoy young people," Sandusky says. "I, I love to be around them. I,  I ... but no I'm not sexually attracted to young boys."

Sandusky also was back in the news this week, for reasons not directly related to his case. One of his adopted sons, Jeffrey Sandusky, was arrested on Monday by Pennsylvania State Police on 14 charges related to the alleged solicitation of nude photos and a sexual act from two teenage girls.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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