BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The defense began calling character witnesses today in the child sex abuse trial of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, beginning with two men who were assistant football coaches with Sandusky at Penn State.
The first witness for the defense was retired Penn State offensive assistant coach Dick Anderson, who was called to talk about Sandusky's reputation in the community.
"He had a wonderful reputation in the community," Anderson said. "He was well thought of in every way."
Booker Brooks, a former assistant coach who returned to State College after stints that included Oregon State and Minnesota, also testified this morning.
Both said it's common for coaches to shower around younger people, something defense attorney Joe Amendola said in his opening remarks that he would show.
On cross-examination, prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan fired off question after question as Anderson appeared to become irritated. McGettigan asked if Anderson had showered with young people, to which he said yes.
McGettigan asked if Anderson knew Sandusky was told in 2001 to not take young people on campus, to which he said no.
Anderson testified that he had seen Sandusky in the showers with young boys but that he did not see any inappropriate behavior.
The prosecutor also asked if Anderson would sleep in the same room with a young boy, to which he said yes.
Brooks said he got to know Sandusky well during long car rides during scouting trips when they were assistant coaches.
"I'll wait for the end of everything to happen before I make my mind up," Brooks said. "I think he's a great guy."
The defense also called as a character witness Clinton Mettler, a former Second Mile participant, who said he had great experiences in summer camps and even returned to be a counselor.
Mettler served 10 years in the Army with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Earlier this morning, the prosecution rested after calling to the stand the mother of alleged victim No. 9, who testified last week that he was sexually abused by Sandusky for years.
The woman was at times tearful when giving her testimony and said that even after her son talked to police, she never asked him about the alleged abuse.
"I just can't imagine what happened," she said, wiping tears away from her face with her hands.
The mother was the last witness called by the prosecution, and she was the only mother of the alleged victims to testify.
When asked by McGettigan if she felt responsible for the alleged abuse of her son, the mother of alleged victim No. 9 tearfully said, "Yes, I do."
The woman, from Mifflin County, at times looked terrified on the stand but declined several offers to take a break.
"I'm good, thank you," she said, composing herself to resume questioning.
She said she noticed changes in her son. She testified that he had told her he had stomach problems which once prompted him to call his mother to have her pick him up from Sandusky's house at 11 p.m. The mother testified that when she picked up her son, he didn't have his shoes on.
He also had trouble going to the bathroom, she said. And he stopped caring about his schoolwork and began isolating himself when he was 14 or 15, she testified.
She also said her son suffered from acid reflux because of his nerves.
It wasn't clear from the testimony how she came to find out about the charges against Sandusky. But she called the assistant principal at her son's school, who called the police.<
On cross-examination, Amendola asked the woman if her son had had a physical, which she said he did when he got his driver's license.
Amendola also asked her how often her son would stay at Sandusky's house. Her son had testified that it was every weekend for three or four years, and the mother said it was several weekends a month over the years.
The prosecution in the case earlier this morning withdrew a felony count of unlawful contact with minors.
Prosecutor Frank Fina told the judge Monday morning that the testimony of alleged victim No. 7 didn't support that charge. That means Sandusky is facing 51 counts of alleged abuse.
Also Monday morning, the judge denied another motion from the defense to throw out most of the charges on the grounds there isn't sufficient evidence to support them.
"It's no secret I've been concerned about this from the beginning," Senior Judge John Cleland said.
But he said the prosecution's providing to the defense an amended bill of particulars, which lists the date ranges and locations of alleged abuse, met the standards of due process.
In his argument, defense attorney Karl Rominger said all but one of the known alleged victims who testified said they were abused over long periods of time, from a year to four years. Rominger said Sandusky's schedule was well-documented because of his travels with the Penn State football team and The Second Mile, but the lack of fixed dates makes it difficult to provide an alibi defense.
Fina argued that case law gives the court "broad latitude" in fixing dates in a case like this.
Rominger argued that the ages of the unknown boys in the shower incidents witnessed by Mike McQueary and a Penn State janitor didn't come from an expert.
"As a result, you would have to allow the jury to speculate as to the age of that person," Rominger said.
Fina argued that McQueary and the janitor who was told about the 2000 incident are adults can determine if someone is a child.
Rominger's motion to dismiss did not include the charges related to alleged victim No. 5, a 23-year-old who testified Sandusky touched his genitals in a Lasch Building shower after a workout in the summer of 2001.
Rominger said the defense will present testimony to show Sandusky didn't have access to the Lasch Building at that time. Read more updates to this story at www.centredaily.com.