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Sandusky Trial: Prosecution Psychologist Says Histrionic Personality Disorder Not Possible

by on June 19, 2012 10:38 AM

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This article contains graphic content)

Updated at 5:03 p.m.

Dr. John O'Brien testified Tuesday afternoon someone as high-functioning as Jerry Sandusky cannot possibly have a histrionic personality disorder and the "love letters" indicate something else. 

"A number of letters are written in a very adolescent way," said O'Brien, the prosecution's forensic psychologist. "They're presented in a way that creates this allusion that Sandusky and the child are on the same plane.

"They're actually highly manipulative. The intent of the letter is to draw the attention of the reader and to sway his attention in some way." 

O'Brien said when Dr. Elliot Atkins reported his discovery materials, they were consistent with the possibility of another disorder being present.

When prosecutor Joseph McGettigan asked O'Brien if it were possible for Sandusky to have a psycho-sexual disorder with a specific focus on adolescent boys, O'Brien said "yes." 

O'Brien said personality disorders are pervasive and essentially render a person unable to function in a lesser role. 

"These people have difficulty being on the sidelines or being an assistant coach," O'Brien said. 

Sandusky was the Penn State assistant football coach for more than three decades.

Later, counsel for the Harrisburg Patriot-News filed a motion to quash a subpoena served to Pulitzer Prize winner Sara Ganim.

Joe Amendola, Sandusky's lawyer, said he wants to ask Ganim about an email conversation between her and the mother of Victim 6. Amendola alleged there have been "a lot of different forces at work" to push the case forward.

Judge John Cleland told the attorney for the newspaper to work out a compromise with the defense.

Earlier, Dottie Sandusky, Jerry's wife, was on the witness stand for about 40 minutes in which she summarily told the jury she never say anything inappropriate between her husband and the Second Mile boys who came through their home. 

She spoke rather softly and tried to discredit some of the alleged victims' testimony by painting them as troubled boys with bad attitudes. 

The full story on her testimony is available here.

The defense is still expected to wrap its case Wednesday afternoon and the jury could get the case by Thursday at the earliest. If no decision is reached by Friday afternoon, they will continue to deliberate through the weekend. 

Sandusky, 68, faces 51 counts in a child sexual abuse case. He is alleged to have abused 10 boys over a 15-year period. He maintains his innocence.

Updated at 2:50 p.m.

BELLEFONTE – Dr. Elliot Atkins testified Tuesday afternoon he diagnosed Jerry Sandusky with a histrionic personality disorder before he saw the "love letters" written to Victim 4.

"The letters made me feel even better about my diagnosis," Atkins said. "They made it much clearer to me."

Atkins said the prosecution's psychologist didn't agree with the diagnosis. Court was recessed before he could continue.

Atkins, who runs a forensic psychology practice, explained a histrionic personality disorder to the court through slides including various definitions and details. A few key points stood out:

  • A person with the disorder will have "excessive emotionality and attention-seeking tendencies, which crop up early in adulthood, Atkins said.

  • The disorder will also cause someone to be characterized by interaction with others that is inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior.

  • Someone with the disorder will also consider relationships to be more intimate than they actually are, Atkins said.

Sandusky showed all the signs of a histrionic personality disorder, Atkins said.

Judge John Cleland recessed for 20 minutes before Atkins could be cross-examined.

Earlier, the defense put the mother of Victim 1 on the stand in an effort to get her to admit she was looking to benefit financially from her son's claims about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Sandusky.

She denied the assertion and said it was a former neighbor that sold her story to the press.

When the defense put her former neighbor on the stand, he told the court the mother of Victim 1 came to him once to ask if there was a way to find out if someone is a registered sex offender.

The mother of Victim 1 told her then-neighbor the allegations her son had made against Sandusky. Then, he said she told him, "I'll own his house."

During cross-examination, prosecutor Joseph McGettigan got the former neighbor of the mother of Victim 1 to admit that he does not think she is a good mother and he believes her to have sabotaged a job opportunity when he used her as a reference.

More character witnesses were presented to the jury Tuesday afternoon. Dr. James Martin, a former national champion Penn State wrestler, said he lived at the Sandusky home for about a month in 1992 or 1993 when he was on rotation during medical school.

Martin gave a stong testament to Sandusky's character and said he did not meet the former Penn State football assistant coach until he was in college and therefore already an adult.

Martin said once only, he saw Sandusky go into a locker room shower with a boy.

He was asked to read a poem written to him by Sandusky, which contained the lines, "Thanks for being so warm and friendly/Thanks for having a special touch."

One woman, Elaine Steinbacher, who is a long-time friend of the Sandusky family was repeatedly told to keep within the confines of the questions being asked to her by Cleland.

Steinbacher formerly worked for and was on the board of the Chester County Second Mile in King of Prussia, Pa. She called Sandusky "inspiring" and recalled meeting Victim 4 in 2009, when he brought over his three-year-old son and girlfriend to meet the family.

"They were quite friendly, very amicable," Steinbacher said. She could not recall seeing any boys sleep over the Sandusky home in the basement on one of the nearly dozen times she stayed over, but said she could not be sure.

Court recessed around 2:25 p.m.

Updated at 11:59 a.m.

BELLEFONTE – Ben Andreozzi, the attorney for Alleged Victim 4, testified Tuesday that his client had "an extremely difficult time" opening up to investigators about being abused by Jerry Sandusky.

Victim 4 told his attorney "something more" had happened, but wasn't ready to admit the extent of his abuse to anyone.

Andreozzi said he represents victims of crimes and civil cases but he would not disclose the details of the agreement between him and his client.

Judge John Cleland sustained Andreozzi's request because of privileged information.

Andreozzi said a guilty verdict could have an impact on his client "somewhere down the road," but further legal action has yet to be addressed.

"We haven't even discussed the filing of a civil claim," Andreozzi said. "We've never even discussed what he can expect out of the case."

A recording of the conversation between Trooper Scott Rossman, Cpl. Joseph Leiter, Alleged Victim 4 and Andreozzi played in court Tuesday morning.

"If this was a book, you'd be repeating word-for-word what a lot of people already told us," an officer can be heard saying on tape.

During the recording, Victim 4 steps outside for a cigarette. The discussion continues between Andreozzi and the investigators, who discuss progress in the investigation and the similarities in the stories of alleged victims.

When Victim 4 returns to the room, he's explained at least nine other individuals have a story that aligns and even goes into more explicit detail of the alleged abuse.

"There's pretty well-defined progression in the way he operates. Often times, this progression, when it's been going on for a certain period of time, it can go past touching and feeling," said one of the investigators on the tape. "It can become oral sex."

There is discussion as to whether the men will tell Victim 4 there are others, but no discussion regarding telling anyone what to say or divulging specific details of other victims' alleged abuse.

Cleland denied the prosecution the ability to replay parts of the tape, since it was evidence presented by the defense.

"The issue is whether or not seeds were planted by the officer," Cleland said.

During cross-examination, Andreozzi reiterated his client's attitude toward discussing his abuse during the interviews with police and even into present day.

"He's been extremely uncomfortable talking about this from day one," Andreozzi said. "He viewed Jerry as a father figure."

During the interview with police, Andreozzi said Victim 4 was, "shaking, clearly emotionally distraught."

The defense team called Rossman back to the witness stand in an attempt to discredit his previous testimony that there was no information disclosed about one victim's interview to another.

Questioning only lasted a few minutes.

Karl Rominger, counsel for the defense, asked both Leiter and Rossman if they ever did a "pre-interview" with Victim 4 before they started recording.

Both men said they could not recall if they did.

Before court reconvened after morning recess, several media outlets reported Dottie Sandusky was spotted entering the back of the courthouse. She was listed on the defense's potential witness list, but it is unknown if or when she will testify.

Court recessed for the lunch hour at 11:50 a.m.

Earlier at 10:38 a.m.

BELLEFONTE – Cpl. Joseph Leiter testified Tuesday morning when Alleged Victim 4 was first approached about the abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of Jerry Sandusky, he refused to talk to police.

"He curled up in the fetal position on the end of his couch," Leiter said.

Each interview with an alleged victim followed a similar pattern. The men were reluctant to talk about their past abuse, he said.

"Each of these (alleged victims) was very, very concerned. We told them they were not alone, there were others," Leiter said.

Trooper Scott Rossman, who led the investigation into Sandusky's alleged sex crimes against children, testified Tuesday morning that at least 50 individuals were interviewed in the search for Sandusky's alleged victims.

Rossman also said many of the men who turned out to be alleged victims were hesitant to disclose any details of their abuse.

He believed there was more to their stories and called some of the men back in for follow-up interviews, even though they were initially defensive.

Rossman said he recalls interviewing at least Victims 1, 4, 5 and 7. He also interviewed former Penn State football wide receivers coach Mike McQueary, whose testimony led to counts against Sandusky regarding Victim 2.

Leiter said he recalls interviewing Victims 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Each man – one who was still a minor at the time – was interviewed at least three times, but no more.

Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, worked to discredit the victims' testimony by questioning Leiter and Rossman about the attorney for Victim 4 and the details the investigators may have shared with their interviewees.

"We told them there were some similar things, but we also interviewed 50, 60 people."

Meanwhile, one character witness after another was trotted out to say they've only known Jerry Sandusky to be a great, law-abiding guy.

Three women took the stand on Sandusky's behalf, two of them former Second Mile campers. Prosecutors did not question the first young woman.

The second young woman, a veteran with the U.S. Army, said she has known Victim 4 for 18 years and that his reputation in the community was not always pristine.

"He was a dishonest person and embellished stories," she said.

Three character witness had been sitting in the courtroom as spectators when they were called to testify. Joyce Porter, who has spent the entire six days' worth of trial in the courtroom, said she has been friends with the Sandusky family for 40 years.

"All the people I know who know Jerry think he's a wonderful man," Porter said.

The prosecution kept its questions to a minimum, often allowing witnesses to step down without asking anything.

Court took its first recess at 10:25 a.m.



Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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