Jerry Sandusky is asking a federal court to grant him a new trial or release him for prison.
Attorneys for the former Penn State football assistant coach and founder of The Second Mile charity for at-risk youth filed a petition in U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania on Tuesday for a writ of habeas corpus. They argue that Sandusky had his constitutional rights violated before, during and after his 2012 trial, when he was convicted on child sexual abuse charges.
Pennsylvania Superior Court in February rejected Sandusky’s appeal for a new trial, but ordered that he be re-sentenced after finding that mandatory minimums were improperly applied by trial Judge John Cleland. His re-sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 8 in Centre County Court. Sandusky’s filing in federal court asks for the petition to be held until the re-sentencing is finalized.
Sandusky, 75, is currently serving a 30-60 year sentence at SCI-Laurel Highlands. Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear Sandusky’s arguments for a new trial in July.
In the federal petition, attorney Peter Goldberger, who is working with Sandusky attorney Al Lindsay, writes that Sandusky’s right to remain silent was violated when, during closing arguments, the prosecution made repeated references to his decision not to testify. His trial attorney, Joe Amendola, objected but did not ask for a mistrial, which violated Sandusky’s Sixth Amendment rights, Goldberger wrote.
Sandusky also claims the trial court violated his right to due process when it denied pretrial requests for continuances despite thousands of pages of documents his attorney needed to review.
As he has since he began pursuing Post-Conviction Relief appeals four years ago, Sandusky says Amendola and co-counsel Karl Rominger provided ineffective counsel in a number of ways, including when Amendola had Sandusky do a national television interview with Bob Costas.
‘For reasons having nothing to do with improving petitioner’s position at trial, defense counsel decided to submit to an interview about the case with a prominent national sports journalist, Bob Costas,’ Goldberger wrote in the petition. ‘At the last moment, counsel yielded to Costas’s request that petitioner himself participate in the televised interview. Petitioner came across badly during that interview, and the resulting video was used as damning evidence against him at trial.’
The trial attorneys also did not move to challenge potential jurors who said they didn’t know if they could put aside negative media reports, nor did they object to ‘highly prejudicial and inadmissible opinion testimony’ from a Clinton County Children and Youth Services caseworker, Goldberger wrote. They also failed, Sandusky claims, by calling a psychologist to explain his behavior around young people as ‘histrionic personality disorder,’ which opened the door for the prosecution to call a rebuttal expert witness who testified Sandusky’s behavior was consistent with pedophilia.
Amendola told jurors in his opening statement that they would hear testimony from Sandusky, and Sandusky understood that to be the plan, but before the end of the trial Sandusky says Amendola advised him not to, according to the petition.
All of those claims were made in appeals to state appellate courts, which decided they ultimately did not preclude Sandusky from receiving a fair trial.
Goldberger wrote that the Superior Court’s decision was ‘contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law…’
‘The Pennsylvania courts’ adjudication of these claims also resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the state court record, insofar as the court found constitutionally reasonable several actions by counsel that in truth had no reasonable basis in the defendant’s interest in obtaining a better result at trial,’ Goldberger wrote.
The petition asks the court to order the commonwealth to respond within 20 days of filing.