Ex-Coach Sandusky Set to Argue Unfair Trial in Appeal
By Sophia Pearson – Sep 17, 2013 12:01 AM ET
Jerry Sandusky, the ex-Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach sentenced to at least 30 years in prison for abusing boys, is seeking to reverse his conviction, claiming he didn’t get a fair trial.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, one of two statewide intermediate appellate courts, will hear Sandusky’s arguments today that his lawyers were given inadequate time to prepare his case while prosecutors made improper use of his decision not to testify. Sandusky, 69, won’t be at the hearing in Wilkes-Barre, about 300 miles from the maximum security prison where he’s held, his attorney, Norris Gelman, said.
“Incarcerated inmates are not allowed to come,” Gelman said yesterday in a phone interview.
The former coach at his sentencing on Oct. 9, 2012, blamed his victims, attorneys and the media for making him out to be a “monster,” who “did disgusting things.” Prosecutors portrayed Sandusky to the jury as a serial child molester who used the Second Mile, a charity he founded for needy boys, to recruit his victims by befriending them and “grooming” them for abuse with gifts, trips to Penn State football games and money.
The abuse took place in buildings on Penn State’s campus and at Sandusky’s home. Sandusky spent more than 30 years at the school before retiring in 1999. He was found guilty by a jury in June 2012 of 45 counts of abusing boys over a 15-year period.
Among the issues raised on appeal is Common Pleas Court Judge John Cleland’s alleged error in denying three requests to delay the trial and prosecutors’ alleged misconduct for adversely commenting on Sandusky’s refusal to testify in his own defense at trial. Cleland, who oversaw Sandusky’s trial and sentenced him, rejected those arguments in a January ruling.
Attorneys representing Sandusky at trial said last year that they had less than 4 1/2 months to prepare a case based on 52 criminal counts and 10 separate victims.
Former lead attorney Joseph Amendola went into trial “blind” with regard to the contents of more than 12,000 pages of documents turned over in pre-trial proceedings, Gelman said in court papers filed in Sandusky’s appeal.
Prosecutors also gained an advantage when they were allowed to comment on Sandusky’s silence at court, saying the former coach conducted television interviews but refused to answer questions under oath, Gelman wrote.
“Adverse comment on the accused not testifying is a double-edge sword,” Gelman said. “It fortifies the prosecution’s case, and adverse comment on the silence of the accused at trial undermines the defense offered.”
Prosecutors countered in papers last month that their comments were related to the TV interview, not Sandusky’s failure to testify. They urged the appeals panel to also reject Sandusky’s other claims.
“Sandusky never identified any evidence that would have affected the outcome of trial in any way and so cannot claim to have been prejudiced,” according to the filing.
Sandusky is prepared to take his appeal to the state’s highest court if he loses, Gelman said yesterday.
Gelman, a former Philadelphia prosecutor, is known for defending Ira Einhorn, known as the unicorn killer, when the counterculture leader was tried in absentia in 1993 for the 1977 murder of girlfriend, Holly Maddux. Gelman spent four years fighting Einhorn’s extradition from Francefollowing his arrest in 1997 after 16 years on the run. Einhorn was returned to Philadelphia in 2002, retried, convicted and given a life sentence.
The Sandusky scandal led to the firings of university President Graham Spanier and legendary football coach Joe Paterno, who died in January 2012.
Spanier and two other school officials face related criminal charges.
Last month, the school agreed to settle claims brought by Sandusky victims for an undisclosed amount. It has spent almost $50 million on the scandal, including the first of five installments toward a $60 million fine imposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for its handling of abuse allegations.
The appeals case is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gerald Sandusky, 343 MDA 2013, Superior Court of Pennsylvania Middle District (Harrisburg).
To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com