Jerry Sandusky’s appearance at a preliminary hearing lasted only a matter of minutes.
Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator who is accused of over 50 counts of child sexual abuse over a 15-year period, waived his right to a hearing in a Centre County, Pa., Courthouse appearance.
The move came as something of a surprise, with a number of victims prepared to offer testimony, and fueled speculation about a possible plea bargain and questions about the defense’s strategy. However, prosecutors said that no deal was in the offing and a Jan. 11 arraignment date was set. Sandusky and attorney Joseph Amendola vowed to fight the charges, with Amendola calling this “the fight of [Sandusky’s] life.”
Later, in a lengthy press conference at the courthouse, Amendola said, “We are not in any way conceding guilt. [The waiver] had nothing to do with cowardice or gamesmanship.” He said the prosecution was aware that a waiver was coming on Monday night and preferred to stage a “dog-and-pony show” with the media today at the courthouse.
Amendola went on to present a nearly hour-long, public-relations case for his client, questioning the credibility of Mike McQueary and the motives of alleged victims while defending Sandusky’s character.
McQueary is the Penn State coach who, as a graduate assistant in 2002, told a grand jury that he believed Sandusky raped a young boy in the showers at Penn State. The grand jury, in its report, said it found McQueary’s testimony compelling and truthful. Amendola disagreed.
“Mike McQueary was the centerpiece of this prosecution,” Amendola said, adding that he believes there are inconsistencies with McQueary’s account. “We have enough inconsistencies to completely wipe him off our case.”
Sandusky remains free on $250,000 bail, wearing an ankle monitor and on house arrest and Amendola described his mental state as “depressed” and “devastated.” After Sandusky’s departure, prosecutors said that there had been no discussion of a plea bargain.
About 11 witness had been set to testify, Senior Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo said. “I haven’t spoken to the victims, but you’ve got to show and you’ve got to understand that you can’t forget the victims in this. You want to have some feelings of compassion for the hurt that they have. I imagine that they would be somewhat relieved at not having to go out and be cross-examined.”
Costanzo was asked how prosecutors felt about the waiver. “We don’t get disappointed. We’re ready for anything. We’re ready to proceed,” Costanzo said. “If he changes his mind at the last minute, that’s his perogative. He has rights. He’s giving up rights. We’re not giving up anything.”
Michael Boni, lawyer for Victim 1 as identified in the grand jury report, said his client was not yet at the courthouse because of the swift move to waive the hearing. “I hope it’s an indicator that a plea bargain is down the road, but I have no knowledge that that’s the case. ... If a plea deal is struck in such a way that justice is served, and we all view whatever the sentence is as a fair sentence, I believe that would be optimal.”
Howard Janet, a Baltimore attorney who represents Victim 6, viewed the waiver with mixed emotions. “I would have liked the boys to have the opportunity to tell their story,” he said. “I think there would have been some catharsis. It would have been apparent to everybody that this young man, my client, is sincere and honest.”
The original grand jury report
The new grand jury presentment
Timeline: How Penn State scandal unfolded
The scandal: Suspicions swept aside
Latest arrest: New charges filed
Sandusky freed: Wife posts $250,000 bail
NBC video: Sandusky taken into custody
Court rules: Guidelines for preliminary hearing
Early Lead: Sandusky’s wife says her husband is innocent
Early Lead: Local judges recuse themselves