Sandusky's unorthodox lawyer grabs spotlight in abuse case

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 13, 2011 9:18 PM
Sandusky's unorthodox lawyer grabs spotlight in abuse case

By Mark Shade and Dave Warner

BELLEFONTE, Pa (Reuters) - It was expected to be a day when accusers of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky -- listed up to now in court documents only as nameless alleged Victims 1 to 10 -- would tell their stories.

It ended up being a day dominated by the defense telling its side of the story, thanks to unorthodox attorney Joe Amendola.

In a scene that could have come straight from a Hollywood drama, Amendola drew gasps when he waived his client's right to a hearing that was to decide if there was enough evidence to go to trial. Sandusky will go straight to trial.

Then, after leading Sandusky and an entourage including his wife Dottie, and about 15 supporters including some youths from The Second Mile charity at the center of the abuse scandal, Amendola stayed behind for an hour and held forth to a throng of reporters.

Standing in the mid-30s temperature in a suit but no overcoat, and complaining about the cold as he spoke, the defense attorney laid out what may be his strategy going forward -- attack the prosecutors and the accusers.

Amendola left no doubt that the main person in his crosshairs is Mike McQueary, the tall, red-headed Penn State assistant football coach who set off a chain of events when he told then head football coach Joe Paterno in 2002 that he saw alleged Victim 2 in a shower with Sandusky.

"What's his motive? I don't know but we'll find out," Amendola said. "But we didn't need to find out today because we have enough inconsistencies at this point to totally wipe (McQueary) off of our case," he said.

He also criticized prosecutors for taking Sandusky from his State College home in handcuffs when he was arrested a second time last week and 12 new charges of abuse were filed, bringing to 52 the number of counts against Sandusky.

Sandusky spent that night in jail before posting a $250,000 cash bail and being released on house arrest, monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet.

"I think the commonwealth (state of Pennsylvania) has been out to get him," said Amendola.

He said the accusers are colluding against his client for financial gain -- pointing out that both The Second Mile charity and Penn State have rich budgets. Sandusky is accused of "grooming" his victims through The Second Mile, a charity he founded to help troubled children.

"We are pursuing the financial motivation. There is a lot of money out there," Amendola said of the accusers.

Prosecutors made only brief comments after the aborted hearing, saying that they had been prepared to call 11 witnesses, including some of the alleged victims.

While all the accusers have said they were abused as boys or juveniles, most are now adults and none have been named publicly. Had they testified on Tuesday that anonymity would have ended.

The silence from the accusers left the debate field open for Amendola and he seized it.

As a crush of media squeezed into the courtroom and an overflow room equipped with closed circuit TV to record the accusers' testimony, Amendola began the morning asking for a private conversation with Judge Robert Scott and prosecutors at the bench. It lasted for about 30 seconds.

The judge then announced that the defense had agreed to waive the hearing and go directly to a criminal trial next year.

Scott looked at Sandusky, who was wearing a blue suit and dark red tie, and asked, "Is this indeed your choice?"

Sandusky nodded and quietly said, "Yes."

It was over before it began.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)