State Prosecutors Fight Sandusky Visitation Request, Say House Arrest Not 'a House Party'
Jerry Sandusky not only should be denied visitation access to his grandchildren; he also should face tightened restrictions while he remains under house arrest, state prosecutors argued in a Tuesday court filing.
Sandusky, of College Township, has been "repeatedly observed outside the confines of his house, which borders on a playground" in Lemont, the filing reads. "Several individuals from the adjacent (Lemont Elementary School) have expressed concerns for the safety of children at their school and in the adjacent neighborhood."
Charged with 52 criminal counts in a child-sexual-abuse case, Sandusky remains under house arrest and away from children while he awaits an expected trial. In a request last month, his lead attorney, Joe Amendola, asked that bail conditions be adjusted to allow Sandusky to visit with his grandchildren in his home.
Some of the grandchildren are sad that they can't communicate with their grandfather, Amendola has written.
The request also seeks permission for Sandusky to have in-home visitation with adult friends as approved by the Centre County Probation Department. In addition, Amendola has asked that Sandusky be permitted to leave his home and travel with members of his legal defense team as they prepare for trial.
A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for this week in Bellefonte. Prosecutors, in their objections Tuesday, wrote they believe Sandusky belongs in jail.
"He has been granted the privilege of being confined in his own home, which is spacious and private and where he can eat food of his own preference and sleep in his own bed at night," read the objections, submitted by state Attorney General Linda Kelly. "House arrest is not meant to be a house party. Contact visits do not occur in the Centre County prison and should not occur during (Sandusky's) house arrest. ...
"This defendant is categorically different from other defendants and should be treated differently from others on house arrest in Centre County," the objections go on. " ... House arrest is akin to incarceration, albeit in the comfort of one's own home."
Thus far, while he's under house arrest, Sandusky has been permitted to appear on an exterior porch. But his appearances outdoors have stirred "genuine fears" in the community, prosecutors wrote Tuesday.
They want the court to order "absolute confinement which precludes his being outside the home entirely unless he is leaving the home, accompanied by his supervising Electronic Monitoring officer, for the purpose of necessary medical treatment. He should be forbidden to be outside his home in proximity to a school playground, where his presence alarms teachers and members of the public."
While Sandusky's children may trust him, prosecutors wrote, "that trust is misplaced.
"Some victims of defendant allege they were molested in defendant's home while defendant's wife was in the house," they wrote. "Nothing has changed which would render the defendant's household now safe ... ."
In an e-mail message to reporters Tuesday night, Amendola called the concerns about Sandusky's outdoor presence "totally unfounded."
"Jerry has complied with all conditions imposed upon him by the court and the Centre County Probation Department" since he was released on bail Dec. 8, Amendola wrote. " ... He has left his residence on very limited occasions since early December with the prior approval of the Probation Department for medical and legal purposes and on one occasion to help his wife clear their driveway of snow following a recent snowstorm. Jerry can't open his front door to let his dog, Bo, out without someone contacting law-enforcement authorities to reports his whereabouts. For all practical purposes, he has been a prisoner in his own home since Nov. 5, when he was initially arrested."
Amendola said the defense team will carry forward with its request, including for Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach, to have electronic communication with his 11 grandchildren. "All such contact would be with at least one parent present," Amendola wrote.
" ... Even incarcerated individuals have visitation privileges," Amendola added. And he said Sandusky would travel with his defense team "only with the prior approval of the court.
"Jerry is presumed to be innocent under our great legal system, although, sadly, some individuals apparently want him incarcerated even before he has an opportunity to present his defense and prove his innocence in court," Amendola wrote.
The Friday hearing on the bail-conditions matter is scheduled for 10 a.m. Judge John M. Cleland is expected to hear the issue, along with a prosecution request for an out-of-county jury. Amendola has said he will fight that request.
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