BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky’s attorneys opened their client’s defense Monday by calling to the stand two former coaching colleagues who said that it was routine for adults and boys to shower together in large public locker rooms.
Richard Anderson, a college teammate and Penn State coaching colleague of Sandusky’s, was the first to testify, and vouched for the defendant’s “wonderful” reputation. When asked by prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III if he had seen Sandusky showering with boys, Anderson answered, “Yes. I have also.”
McGettigan seemed surprised by the response and asked Anderson a flurry of follow-ups.
“Eleven-year-olds?” McGettigan said.
“Yes,” Anderson said.
“That you didn’t know?’
Anderson said, “I do it all the time,” and added, “There are regularly young boys at the YMCA showering at the same time that there are older people showering.”
Sandusky, however, is accused of more than showering in the company of young boys. He is accused of molesting them. Prosecutors say the assaults occurred at Penn State facilities, in hotel rooms and at Sandusky’s home, and involved 10 boys over the course of 15 years. Sandusky has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The case is moving more rapidly than anyone anticipated. Judge John Cleland originally predicted a three-week trial, but he surprised the packed courtroom here early Monday afternoon by adjourning for the day, saying the defense would likely rest Wednesday and the two sides could present closing arguments Thursday morning. The jury will have a long list of charges to sort through, but a verdict by the end of the week seems possible.
Monday’s start of the Sandusky defense proved anticlimactic by any standard. There has been much speculation that Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, could testify in his defense. His attorney, Joseph Amendola, implied during opening statements last week that Sandusky himself would take the stand. And the defense has steadily suggested that alleged victims have been inconsistent in their stories and may be motivated by the possibility of a big payout in civil suits.
But when the defense finally got its turn Monday, it presented only a few character witnesses who spoke in general terms about Sandusky’s sterling reputation.
“A lot of us were inspired by the way Jerry could relate to youth and get to their level,” testified David Pasquinelli, a former consultant for The Second Mile, the charity Sandusky founded to help troubled kids.
The two coaches spent much of their time on the stand discussing showering habits in locker rooms. Anderson said he had never seen Sandusky do anything inappropriate. That assertion was echoed by Booker T. Brooks, who had also coached alongside Sandusky at Penn State when both were assistants to the late Joe Paterno.
“Have you ever showered with young kids?” Amendola asked.
“Many times,” Brooks said.
Amendola asked Brooks if he was always naked in the shower.
“I have never showered with any type of clothing on,” Brooks said, as laughter rippled through the courtroom.
He offered a more general character assessment of Sandusky: “I think he’s a great guy.”
Sandusky is charged with 51 counts related to child sex abuse. Prosecutors dropped one charge Monday morning because of the statute of limitations.
Andrew Shubin, an attorney for two of the eight alleged victims who testified last week, said of the defense’s case, “They didn’t move the ball at all.”
His partner, Justine Andronici, said of the testimony about Sandusky’s good reputation, “It’s not at all uncommon for perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse to have strong reputations in the community.”
The morning began with a motion by the defense to throw out many of the charges on grounds of “non-specificity.” The witnesses who testified against Sandusky about events years in the past were for the most part uncertain about the dates of alleged assaults. The defense said this impinged upon Sandusky’s ability to offer alibi witnesses, who might say that he was somewhere else when the incidents allegedly happened.
“It’s very difficult to defend when the charges include long periods of time without specific information about where and when they occurred,” defense attorney Karl Rominger told Cleland.
Cleland denied the defense motion.
The prosecution rested at 10:42 a.m. Monday after calling one last witness, the mother of “Victim 9,” who testified Thursday that Sandusky had abused him repeatedly for four years during weekend sleepovers at Sandusky’s house. (By the judge’s order, the alleged victims have been identified in court by their full names, but media organizations have protected their privacy. The Washington Post generally does not identify alleged sex-crime victims.)
The mother said the boy had chronic stomach problems and would sometimes tell her he didn’t want to go to Sandusky’s home. And she noticed something odd about her son:
“I always wondered why he never had any underwear in the laundry,” she said. “He said he’d had an accident and threw them out.”
The prosecutor asked, “Do you feel a little responsible?”
“Yes, I do,” she said, sobbing.