BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky opted against forcing his accusers to make their claims of child sex abuse in a packed courtroom Tuesday but then took his case to the courthouse steps as his lawyer assailed the credibility of the alleged victims and witnesses.
"There will be no plea negotiations," defense lawyer Joseph Amendola said. "This is a fight to the death."
Waiving such a preliminary hearing is not unusual but it was unexpected in this case: Amendola repeatedly had said his client was looking forward to facing his accusers. Afterward, he called the cancellation a "tactical decision" to prevent the men from reiterating the same claims they made to the grand jury."
Lawyers for the alleged victims said some were relieved they would not have to make their claims in public before a trial, but others said they had steeled themselves to face Sandusky and were left disappointed.
"It would have been apparent from watching those boys and their demeanor that they were telling the truth," said Howard Janet, a lawyer for a boy whose mother contacted police in 1998 after her son allegedly showered with Sandusky.
Sandusky has denied the allegations, which led to the departures of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and the university president. He is charged with more than 50 counts that accuse him of sexually abusing 10 boys over the span of 12 years.
Amendola said he believed some of the young men may have trumped up their claims and that others may came forward in a bid for monetary gain.
"We're pursuing a financial motivation," Amendola said, "Finances and money are great motivators."
Michael Boni, a lawyer representing an accuser known as Victim 1, said Amendola was "reaching into his bag of tricks."
"I can tell you that Victim No. 1 is credible. He was the first one to come forward," he said.
Sandusky told reporters as he left the courthouse that he would "stay the course, to fight for four quarters" and "wait for the opportunity to present our side."
His decision to waive the hearing is not unusual. At the hearings, prosecutors must show that they have probable cause to bring the case to trial. Prosecutors in this case were expected to meet that relatively low bar, in part because the case been through a grand jury.
Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said the move "provides maximum protection to most importantly the victims in this case."
"It avoids their having to testify for a second time," Costanzo said. "They will of course testify at a trial in the case."
Costanzo also said there had been no discussions about a plea bargain.
Sandusky's next court appearance, an arraignment, is scheduled for Jan. 11. He remains under house arrest.
The accusers who were prepared to testify were split in their reactions to the hearing being canceled.
Boni said he was encouraged that the accusers "do not have to relive the horrors they experience up on the witness stand" by having to testify at the hearing and at trial.
But Ben Andreozzi, a lawyer representing another accuser, read a statement from his client, who called it the most difficult time of his life.
"I can't believe they put us through this until the last second," the statement read. "I still will stand my ground, testify and speak the truth."
Another attorney for one of the accusers, Ken Suggs, called Sandusky a "coward" for not facing the young men.
Witnesses have contended before the grand jury that Sandusky committed a range of sexual offenses against boys as young as 10, assaulting them in hotel swimming pools, the basement of his home in State College and in the locker room showers at Penn State, where the 67-year-old former assistant football coach once built a national reputation as a defensive mastermind.
Sandusky has told NBC and The New York Times that his relationship to the boys who said he abused them was like that of an extended family. Sandusky characterized his experiences with the children as "precious times" and said the physical aspect of the relationships "just happened that way" and didn't involve abuse.
Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, a year after the first known abuse allegation reached police when a mother told investigators Sandusky had showered with her son during a visit to the Penn State football facilities. Accusations surfaced again in 2002, when graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported another alleged incident of abuse to Paterno and other university officials.
The grand jury probe began only in 2009, after a teen complained that Sandusky, then a volunteer coach at his high school, had abused him.
Sandusky first groomed him with gifts and trips in 2006 and 2007, then sexually assaulted him more than 20 times in 2008 through early 2009, the teen told the grand jury.
Sandusky founded The Second Mile, an organization to help struggling children, in 1977, and built it into a major charitable organization, headquartered in State College with offices in other parts of Pennsylvania.
Two university officials have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse — athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday in Harrisburg.
Curley has been placed on leave and Schultz has returned to retirement in the wake of their arrests. The scandal brought down university president Graham Spanier and longtime coach Paterno, who was fired last month. -- (AP)
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Phillies traded outfielder Ben Francisco to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday for minor league left-hander Frank Gailey.
Francisco spent parts of three seasons with the Phillies, hitting .259 with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs in 225 games. He hit a three-run, pinch-hit homer to lead the Phillies past St. Louis in Game 3 of the 2011 NL division series. The Cardinals won the series in five games.
Gailey, a 26-year-old native of Philadelphia, split last season between Single-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. He was 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 45 relief appearances. He is 23-15 with a 2.45 ERA in 175 games in his minor league career.
Francisco was acquired by the Phillies from Cleveland in July 2009 in a trade that also brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia.
The Blue Jays also claimed right-hander Jim Hoey off waivers from Minnesota, outrighted catcher Brian Jeroloman and right-hander Drew Carpenter to Triple-A Las Vegas and designated right-hander Jesse Chavez for assignment. — (AP)
About half of Pennsylvanians surveyed for a poll released on Friday support the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, although many say they still have a favorable opinion of him after the child sex-abuse scandal that erupted last month.
The poll conducted by Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University found 52 percent of registered Pennsylvania voters surveyed supported the decision of the Penn State Board of Trustees to oust the longtime coach, with 43 percent opposing the move.
But 44 percent of those polled still have a favorable opinion of Paterno despite outrage expressed by law enforcement officials who claim he didn’t take strong enough action after a graduate assistant came to him claiming he saw former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a shower at the school’s football facilities.
Seventeen percent said they hadn’t heard enough about Paterno have an opinion.
Paterno and school President Graham Spanier lost their jobs after a grand jury report detailed a series of incidents of sex abuse involving Sandusky and at-risk boys he met through his charity, The Second Mile.
Spanier didn’t fare so well in the poll. An overwhelming majority favored his dismissal ‚Äî 74 percent to 13 percent.
“Pennsylvania voters have more love for the legendary football coach than for Graham Spanier, but they agree that Joe must go,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Institute assistant director Tim Malloy.
Sandusky is accused of abusing 10 boys, some on campus, over 15 years, allegations that were not immediately brought to the attention of authorities even though high-level people at Penn State apparently knew about at least some of them.
The poll of 1,453 registered voters for the week ending Dec. 5 has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. — (AP)
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The mayor of Pennsylvania’s cash-strapped capital says a foreclosure notice on a property she owns was an oversight.
Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson told residents at a community forum Thursday that she missed two mortgage payments and was working with creditors to keep the property.
Metro Bank filed a $52,000 mortgage complaint against Thompson on Wednesday. The property had been used as the headquarters for a mortgage counseling nonprofit Thompson ran before being elected.
The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reports Thompson also owes back school taxes of about $1,000 and hasn’t made a payment since May.
Metro Bank says Thompson stopped making mortgage payments mortgage in September.
The foreclosure notice comes amid a state takeover of Harrisburg’s finances while the city struggles with millions in debt from a troubled trash incinerator project. — (AP)
Former state trooper gets house arrest for nude video
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A former state trooper was sentenced Friday to six months of house arrest with an electronic monitoring bracelet after he admitted sending a webcam video of himself dancing in the nude to an agent posing as a 13-year-old girl.
The former trooper, Douglas Sversko, also will be on probation for five years, registered on the Megan’s Law list of sex offenders for 10 years and barred from having unsupervised contact with minors during probation, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office said.
Sversko received an evaluation that determined that he was not a sexually violent predator, and he sought counseling that determined that no further treatment was necessary, said his lawyer, Nichole A. Collins.
“It seemed to be an isolated incident out of character that the doctors don’t feel will happen again,” Collins said.
Sversko, of Lewisburg, has a 13-year-old daughter, Collins said. He was the first trooper to be arrested by the attorney general’s Child Predator Unit since it was created in January 2005.
The attorney general’s office had sought a sentence within the standard range of three to 12 months behind bars, spokesman Nils Frederiksen said.
Sversko, 44, sent the video in March 2010 after approaching what he thought was a teenage girl in an online chat, authorities said. He was charged in February and pleaded guilty in September to two felonies, including unlawful contact with a minor and criminal use of a communication facility. While he was free on bail, he was barred from unsupervised contact with minors, Frederiksen said.
Sversko retired from his job at the Milton station in May.
Asked why it took 11 months to arrest Sversko after he sent the video, Frederiksen said cases like this often involve extra investigative work, such as determining the person’s identity and working to determine whether the person is involved in other criminal behavior online.
“There’s a lot of investigative work that’s involved in any of our child predator unit investigations, not all of which we can talk about,” he said. “When our agents and investigators have reached the point where they think it’s appropriate to file charges, we do.” — (AP)
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
Date:12/9/2011 1:06 PM
Slug:BC-PA--Sex Charges-Trooper,1st Ld-Writethru
Headline:Ex-trooper gets house arrest for nude dance video
Editors’ Note:Eds: Updates with details from sentencing, comment by defense lawyer and attorney general’s office and background.
File Name (Transref):d0522