Jerry Sandusky’s trial on sex abuse charges will go forward in June as planned.
Senior Judge John Cleland denied on Monday the defense’s request for a delay and did not give a reason for his decision, which came 12 days after defense attorney Joe Amendola asked for more time.
Amendola wrote in his May 9 request that he couldn’t adequately prepare Sandusky’s defense with what was then almost four weeks of lead time before trial. Amendola cited factors, such as the separate criminal cases against former Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, whose attorneys have said the men will not testify for Sandusky as they await trial in Dauphin County on perjury and failure to report abuse charges. Amendola also said his investigators need time to interview potential witnesses and line up expert witnesses.
Jonathan Hugg, a partner at the law firm of Thorp Reed & Armstrong in Philadelphia, said the judge may have decided that the defense had not shown sufficient cause for postponing the trial.
“The judge may feel the defense is merely trying to delay for the sake of stonewalling,” Hugg said.
“In some respects, a delay serves the defense.”
With time, witnesses may become less willing to testify and memories fade, he said.
Hugg said deadlines provide discipline to lawyers, too, while leaving open the possibility that the defense could again request a delay before the trial.
“To practice law properly and to be diligent, particularly when someone’s liberty is at stake, you have an obligation to look under every rock, talk to witnesses who don’t want to talk to you, and that takes a lot of time and energy and resources,” he said.
Amendola is still asking the judge to throw out the case. Sandusky’s attorney filed motions last week to drop some of the charges, saying they’re either too vague or lack enough evidence.
The judge ordered prosecutors to respond to that request by Friday.
Also Monday, the judge ordered prosecutors to give the defense a written statement about potential offenses investigators have discovered but with which Sandusky has not been charged. That is due to Amendola by May 30, the week before jury selection starts June 5.
As he prepares Sandusky’s defense, Amendola has told the judge he has been reviewing discovery materials he has received, and that his investigators need time to interview people they learned of through that process.
Amendola also wants material to see if he can discredit the alleged victims during trial. For instance, he’s asking for cellphone records to see if the young men were in communication with each other during the grand jury’s investigation.
He also was given access to certain school records to see if the alleged victims had any behavioral problems before they met Sandusky through The Second Mile.
On Monday, county Judge Pamela A. Ruest gave the OK for the county’s Probation and Parole office to release some documents in the juvenile file for alleged victim No. 10. It’s similar to the approval President Judge Thomas King Kistler gave last week for the release of records pertaining to alleged victim No. 4.
And 10 days before trial, Amendola will get transcripts of the grand jury testimony from witnesses whom prosecutors intend to call to testify at trial. Amendola has asked for the transcripts earlier.
Amendola has until May 30 to hand over to the prosecution certain evidence he may bring up at trial. The prosecution asked to see copies of physical or mental examinations, results from scientific tests related to the case, and reports prepared by any expert witnesses the defense plans to call to testify.
‘Difficult kind of case’
Judge Cleland has set aside 1:30 p.m. May 30 in the main courtroom of the Centre County Courthouse for a possible hearing on any unresolved pretrial issues.
Gunner Gleason, a well-known criminal defense attorney in Johnstown, said the defense will often ask for additional time to prepare, especially if the defendant is out on bail.
“This is a very difficult kind of case to prepare a defense,” Gleason said. “Because there are a lot of victims, the defense has to initiate a lot of interviews on its own. A lot of times, the defense has a difficult time securing access to records and/or cooperation from the victims.”
He said the judge is obligated to keep the case moving along.
“Good judges are impervious to being prejudged on the way they operate their courtroom,” Gleason said, adding that judges such as Cleland understand the significance of the pace of the trial.
“He recognizes the importance of the case, but he realized that the trial that is so important to so many people must be conducted impartially and efficiently,” Gleason said. “That’s what counts first.”
‘A fair trial’
Hugg said if Sandusky’s case goes to trial and the former football coach is found guilty, he might argue that he didn’t have enough time to prepare his case.
“Sandusky might say, ‘My defense was prejudiced. I was unable to put on a proper defense, and I repeatedly went to the judge and said I need more time and the judge said no, and that violated my right to a fair trial,’” Hugg said.
The question is whether there is good cause for a delay.
Jury selection is scheduled to start in two weeks, with little delay expected between the attorneys selecting the 12 jurors and making their opening arguments.
As of Monday, the county has received 209 jury questionnaires from 600 county residents who were sent summonses.