Sandusky Trial: TV Legal Analyst Beth Karas Says it's Not Looking Good for Defense
BELLEFONTE — Beth Karas, truTV's In Session correspondent, has been with the network for 18 years, covering high-profile cases such as Kobe Bryant, Martha Stewart and Scott Peterson.
She's at the Centre County Courthouse for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial and has dissected three days worth of testimony in the former Penn State assistant football coach's case.
So far, five alleged victims have taken the witness stand, and Judge John Cleland said Wednesday he expects the prosecution to be finished presenting its case Friday.
If the trial ended now, Karas said it wouldn't look good for Sandusky.
Of course, it doesn't, so Karas, also a former prosecutor and assistant district attorney, offered her take on what to expect moving forward into next week and beyond.
Karas spoke with StateCollege.com Wednesday after testimony concluded for the day.
Q: It's only been three days. The judge thinks the prosecution is going to wrap up by Friday. Do you?
A: It's only three days but the testimony has been about seven of the alleged victims. Five have testified. The testimony related to victims 2 and 8 has come in. We’ve heard in three days about seven of the 10. There's only three left and maybe a cop or two, I don't know.
Q: So is this moving more quickly than you anticipated?
A: Yes. Jury selection went much more quickly than I thought and the Commonwealth’s case is going more quickly. But I thought it was going to be no more than two weeks. I thought it was gonna be fairly quick only because this isn’t a case with forensics. Nobody is out there swabbing for DNA and doing that. This is a case that’s built on statements and behavior, and that can be sufficient evidence.
Think about it, when you have crimes that aren't reported for 10 or 15 years or five years, where's the physical evidence? What some of these guys did, they kept the gifts. They kept letters.
Q: Do you really think it will be over in two weeks?
A: By the end of next week, it will be wrapped up or close to it.
Q: Alleged victims seem very solid up there. For some, it's an emotional time for them, but for the most part do you think their stories are holding up?
A: If the jurors believe them and each one tends to corroborate most of the next, it's not looking good for Sandusky. Each one builds on the other. It’s a pattern. I try not to give opinions. There was one witness today who was a convicted felon and he didn’t come forward until the first grand jury (report), so you could say, 'Well, he's in it for whatever reason. He just wants to get back at Sandusky. He wants money.' But he doesn't have a lawyer, so it’s not like he's motivated by a civil suit. I think he straightened himself out. He's married now. His wife is expecting a child.
I don’t want to give opinions, but I don't think right now the case looks good for Sandusky. I just don’t think they will have much to cross examine.
Q: Mike McQueary, one of the prosecution's star witnesses, one of the ones who corroborated this happened outside the alleged victims, how do you think he did?
A: He's the proof because they don’t have that for that victim. They don’t have him. He's the only proof, him and his father. I thought his delivery was good. He was assertive. If he didn’t recollect something or said something that appeared to be inconsistent in the past, he's like, 'Yeah, that’s what I said, but I know what I saw. And I can remember things that happened to me a long time ago. I remember the dates but I remember the details very well.'
He was bitter about having his job replaced right now and not being allowed in the athletic facilities because he's on administrative leave. I felt some of his statements were directed not just at the jury but the media. He directed at the rest of us there to try to set the record straight for him because maybe he felt he wasn’t getting a fair shot in the media and the court of public opinion.
People can look back and say, 'Why didn’t he do this?' It’s the kind of crime for a long time people swept under the rug. People dealt with it in their homes. The church swept it under the carpet. They covered it up. I don't know the extent of what happened with the administration at Penn State and the people who knew about it. I mean, McQueary did something about it. He didn’t do nothing. He did something about it. He said it went up the chain of command. He thought talking to (Gary) Schultz about it was talking to the police because he was in charge of the campus police and this happened on campus. If they chose not to do something about it, that’s the administration's problem. Is it his problem?
I don't know, the public seems to make it his problem. That may be really unfair to him because it’s the kind of crime people are hesitant to talk about and to do something about. I'm not sure why. I'm not sure why because it is an assault. It's an assault on a child's psyche. It's an assault on the child's body, and it can scar a child for life. We saw grown men crying on the stand. Crying on the stand. We saw an 18 year old, still tender, still raw, crying a lot (Tuesday) and these are instances that happened so many years ago and they're still scarred by it.
Q: John McQueary's testimony got cut short (Wednesday) because he could not remember he testified in December at the preliminary hearing (for Tim Curley and Schultz). How does that affect the case?
A: The defense was trying to use inconsistent statements. As soon as John McQueary said, 'I don't know, there must be some mistake here,' end of story. Now, [Joe] McGettigan could’ve gotten up and rehabilitated and say, 'Don’t you remember?' He could've done it. But you know what? By not doing that, he ended it. There's no inconsistent statement out for the jury.
Maybe it got lost on the jury, and maybe for the jury it doesn't really matter. But it was curious to all of us observing it, knowing that he testified, that he simply didn't remember. What does that mean about his testimony today? Can we rely on it? I think his testimony stands.
Q: If there are discrepancies between grand jury testimony and court testimony, and he says, 'I wasn’t ready to tell certain details in front of a grand jury but I am now,' how does that tilt the scale?
A: There can be inconsistencies that can be sort of minor. If you were to tell the same story twice about an event last week that you went to, you might not tell it the same way. But major things are, 'How many times did this happen to you? Once? One of them was more than 12 and more than 20, that was one of the victims. But he had an explanation for that. He said every time I had to tell this story to a new person it took him a while to get to that comfort zone where he could say it all. And he was embarrassed and he was humiliated. He just couldn’t admit to everything that he did at the time and that he was telling the truth to the grand jury
Look, the defense can say this case blew up. It became huge. He's got a civil attorney, and he wants money and he's gonna make it as disgusting and as many times as possible in order to make it egregious and get more money in the end. They can make that argument for some of them, and some of them don’t even have an attorney. Some of the jurors might buy it, but others may buy the explanation it was just really hard for them to talk about.
Q: If guilty, where do you estimate a ballpark figure for sentencing?
A: He's charged with 30 felonies and 22 misdemeanors. So assuming all 52 counts go to the jury, and I don't know that all will, the judge might say there's insufficient evidence for some. Misdemeanors are in two different categories. First and second degree, and they’re punishable by up to five or two years, (respectively). And the felonies are first, second or third degree. He's charged with 17 first-degree felonies, and each one of them is punishable by up to 20 years. Second degree is 10 (years). Third degree is seven years. If you were to aggregate each one, maximum sentence, all consecutive, would be over 500 years.
"Every time you have a different victim, many of those counts would be stacked or sent to the next, and separate acts even within a victim can be made consecutive too. It's his natural life with 17 first-degree felonies.
Q: What do you expect the defense brings out?
A: I really don’t know what to expect for the defense. Just given Jerry Sandusky's nature, I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the stand. But they may have found young men who were boys at The Second Mile or part of the group he would take to ball games and have at this house and say they were never touched by him. Maybe you’ll see a parade of character witnesses that say, 'I was there. I knew No. 5 and he wasn’t treated any differently.
Q: Does it make sense for Jerry Sandusky to take the stand?
A: It's always a danger for the defendant to testify and put himself up to cross-examination. It doesn't happen that often. But in cases where the question is whether or not a crime even occurred, cases like that are self defense, 'Yeah I shot him, but I shot him in self defense,' you need to testify.
Here you heard even the judge say to the jury, 'They’re alleged victims.' And (Joe) Amendola said, 'Until you say he's guilty, there are no victims here.' So if the question is whether or not crime even happened, and this is that kind of case, did a crime even happen, yeah he could testify. He could say, 'No, that’s not what happened. He even says McQueary wasn't lying in the shower, he was just mistaken by what he saw.
Cause there's so many boys, he's got a lot of explaining to do.