The defense opened its arguments Monday with a series of witnesses called to attest to Jerry Sandusky’s character as the trial entered its fifth day of proceedings. The former Penn State assistant football coach is accused of abusing ten boys over a 15-year period and faces 51 counts of criminal child sexual abuse; if found guilty he could face more than 500 years in prison. (Sandusky has pleaded not guilty to all charges.) Here are the five things you need to know from the fifth day of the trial.
An unaired segment of Jerry Sandusky’s awkward Bob Costas interview could prove damning. Prosecutors may intend to present to the jury a lengthy quote that was cut from the infamous November 2011 phone interview Jerry Sandusky gave to NBC’s Bob Costas during a segment on the news show Rock Center. The network reported Monday that the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office had contacted it to verify the quote, which appeared in a published transcript but not in the broadcast version of the show. After Sandusky defended the work of his Second Mile Charity in helping hundreds of young boys, Costas challenged him, arguing that it didn’t necessarily refute the allegations that he may have abused some of them. To which Sandusky replied, in part: “I didn’t go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I’ve helped. There are many that I didn’t have — I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways.”
Even if NBC didn’t deem the comment worthy of airing, prosecutors could still choose to share it with the jury. And NBC’s legal analyst said this particular quote could be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
One charge against Sandusky was dropped. Prosecutors dropped one of the 52 counts against Sandusky, saying that the statute he was charged under wasn’t in place when the alleged abuse occurred, although he remains on the hook for the other 51. Victim No. 7 told prosecutors he was abused by the former Penn State assistant football coach in 1995 or 1996, but the “unlawful contact with a minor” law didn’t come into effect until 1997. A slew of other dismissal motions made by Sandusky’s attorneys were denied by Judge John Cleland, including the core charge of “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse” relating to Victim No. 2 — the young boy that prosecution witness Mike McQueary claims he saw being abused by Sandusky in a locker room shower. The defense team argued that charge should be dismissed because McQueary couldn’t attest to seeing intercourse, but the judge decided to let the charge stand.
One alleged victim would routinely throw away his underwear to hide the supposed abuse. Week two of the trial began with a final prosecution witness. The mother of Victim No. 9 took the stand Monday to detail her son’s cover-up of the alleged sordid acts he suffered at Sandusky’s hands. “I always wondered why he never had any underwear in the laundry,” she testified. “He just told me he had an accident and he threw them out.” Indeed, she testified that he started becoming “sick” more often after spending time with the ex-Penn State coach. Victim No. 9 supposedly slept over at the Sandusky residence more than 100 times.
Victim No. 9 testified last Thursday that he screamed during one episode of alleged abuse, hoping that Sandusky’s wife, who he said was always upstairs, would hear. “I think the basement is soundproof,” he said tearfully, noting that Sandusky’s wife Dottie never did come down.
The mother said that Sandusky gave Victim No. 9 a number of gifts, including clothes. “I just wish he could give him underwear to replace the underwear that I could never find in my laundry,” she told the jury. After her testimony, the prosecution rested, leaving Sandusky’s defense team to bring their witnesses.
The trial is progressing at a breakneck pace. Even with Monday’s early 2 p.m. recess due to “technical issues” with witnesses, Judge Cleland told the jury to prepare to deliberate by Thursday. He noted that he expects the defense to wrap up their arguments by Wednesday, with closing arguments to be delivered Thursday. If the court sticks to Judge Cleland’s timetable, the case will run a full six days shorter than the three weeks originally budgeted for trial proceedings. Cleland told the jurors to prepare for sequestration – meaning they would be holed up in a hotel without access to phones, televisions or any media sources during their deliberations.
Lawyers for some of the alleged victims might be called to the witness stand. At least one lawyer has been subpoenaed by Sandusky’s defense team. Thomas Kline, a Philadelphia lawyer who represents Victim No. 5, told the Associated Press that he was served a subpoena on Monday ordering him to produce a copy of the fee agreement that he signed with his client. It also asked him to bring records of any interactions he’s had with the media and with the Attorney General’s office. The defense team is reportedly seeking to prove that the lawyers of the alleged victims have made agreements with their clients to take a cut of any settlement from a potential civil lawsuit. Reporter Mike Dawson tweeted an image of the subpoena:
Lead defense attorney Joe Amendola has also suggested previously that the accusers and the Attorney General’s office might be colluding. Lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan has often queried the alleged victims while on the stand: “Have I ever, ever, ever told you what to say?” which they’ve answered with resounding denials. But it could be a larger issue for Kline and the other subpoenaed attorneys to defend themselves against a charge of violating the gag order issued by Judge Cleland, which bars any representative from either side from discussing the case with the media.
It’s still up in the air if Jerry Sandusky or even his wife Dottie will take the stand. But with the self-proclaimed fast pace, it’s looking like less of a possibility.