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Sandusky Returns to Centre County Court Seeking New Trial

by on May 02, 2016 2:09 PM
Bellefonte, PA

Jerry Sandusky was back in Centre County Court on Monday as his attorneys made arguments seeking an evidentiary hearing to potentially grant him a new trial.

Specially presiding Judge John Cleland of McKean County, who has been overseeing the case since it went to trial in 2012, made no rulings on Monday, saying he would examine each issue raised by the defense. Sandusky attorney Al Lindsay said Cleland did not give any indication in chambers after the arguments of when he would make his ruling.

Sandusky, a former Penn State football assistant coach and founder of the Second Mile charity for at-risk youth, is seeking a new trial under the Post-Conviction Relief Act after having been convicted on 45 counts related to child sex abuse in 2012. 

Arriving around 10:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Bellefonte accompanied by Centre County Sheriffs, Sandusky, handcuffed and wearing a prison-issued orange jumpsuit, spoke his only public comments of the day. 

"There's much to say. For now Al Lindsay is going to say it," Sandusky said to a gaggle of reporters and photographers outside the courthouse. "Just listen to him. Read what has been written." 

In petitions for a new trial, Sandusky's attorneys have presented hundreds of documents, allegations and arguments raising nearly three dozen issues they believe qualify the case to move forward to a new trial. Many of those stem from their contention that Sandusky received ineffective counsel from his trial attorneys Joseph Amendola and Karl Rominger.

"I don't think the issues are frivolous. I think the issues are important," Cleland said during Lindsay's arguments. "My concern is you don't have the witnesses to back it up."

Largely at issue during the hourlong arguments was the substance of potential testimony Lindsay and co-counsel Andrew Salemme had certified for the evidentiary hearing they are seeking.

In the witness certification filing, Sandusky's attorneys write “the overwhelming majority of these witnesses are hostile witnesses,” and “the exact testimony they will offer is difficult to predict.”

That presented a conundrum for Cleland, who said the witness certification didn't necessarily bear out the facts pled by the defense.

"We've attempted to interview adverse witnesses and they have refused," Lindsay said. "Our only opportunity is to subpoena them here to testify."

Only a few of the issues raised in Sandusky's filings were discussed during the argument. Among them was the defense's contention that prosecutor Joe McGettigan knew a man had come forward identifying himself as Victim 2 -- the boy former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary said he saw being molested by Sandusky in a locker room shower -- but told the jury "only God knows" who the victim was.

Cleland remarked that whether McGettigan knew that man had come forward and whether he believed he was the boy McQueary saw were separate matters.

Also at issue was the source of leaks from the grand jury prior to charges being issued in 2011. While prosecutors contended that the leaks to Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim could have come from witnesses who were at the time not prohibited from discussing their testimony, Lindsay argued there was no evidence to suggest the leaks came from witnesses and said they came from the state.

Lindsay believes Attorney General Kathleen Kane could shed light on the matter. Last week she filed a motion in her own perjury trial that she was the victim of selective prosecution because individuals are rarely prosecuted for leaking grand jury info. She's charged with lying under oath about leaking grand jury information to discredit former state prosecutors Marc Costanzo and Frank Fina, who happens to have been one of the prosecutors in the Sandusky trial and a potential witness for an evidentiary hearing.

Cleland granted Sandusky's attorneys 10 days to file a witness certification for Kane, who could then be made to testify should an evidentiary hearing proceed.

Prosecutors said though there is no evidence of impropriety by the prosecution related to a grand jury leak, it nevertheless would not have been grounds for a dismissal of charges.

Several issues related to Sandusky's representation prior to and at his trial were also raised. Sandusky contends that Amendola only informed him that he would be doing a national television interview with Bob Costas 15 minutes beforehand and did not tell him it could be used against him at trial.

Prosecutors said the Costas interview was the only issue that could be cause for an evidentiary hearing. However, they added, at the trial's closing arguments Amendola said Sandusky did the interview because "Jerry wanted to tell the world he is innocent."

Lindsay said Amendola was wrong to waive Sandusky's preliminary hearing as it was an opportunity to hear from witnesses, and he did not properly advise Sandusky about it. Deputy AG Jennifer Peterson countered that "They cannot articulate any prejudice resulting from simply waiving the preliminary hearing."

"Attorneys Amendola and Rominger indicated to this court [before the trial] that they could not effectively represent Mr. Sandusky," Lindsay said. "If you look at the cumulative record of errors of counsel, they were telling the truth.

"These are issues that can only be resolved by the testimony of Mr. Amendola and Mr. Sandusky."

The 72-year-old Sandusky is currently serving a sentence of 30-60 years in the State Correctional Institute at Greene in Western Pennsylvania.

Outside the courthouse after the arguments, Salemme read a statement from Sandusky in which he wrote of injustice and attacks against his family and supporters.

"I am an innocent man serving what amounts to a life sentence," the statement read in part. "Just like the rest of the world, I am imperfect. However, I stand firm in knowing my slate is clean of these alleged heinous crimes."

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