Sandusky lawyer sees slim chance of acquittal as jury presses on

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 16, 2012 3:07 PM
Sandusky lawyer sees slim chance of acquittal as jury presses on

(Note: explicit sexual content)

By Ian Simpson

BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - As jurors in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky worked into the night to reach a verdict on Friday, his lawyer told reporters he would be shocked if the one-time Penn State assistant football coach was acquitted of all charges.

"I would die of a heart attack - shocked - if he was acquitted on all of the charges," Joe Amendola told reporters awaiting the verdict in the courtroom, despite a standing gag order for the attorneys in the case.

Amendola's off-the-cuff remark was the latest of several quips he made to reporters covering the trial this week. Previously he compared the trial to a TV soap opera, which earned him a trip to Judge John Cleland's chambers.

Emerging from his meeting with Cleland, Amendola made a zipping motion at his mouth and said Cleland had told him: "Joe, you're going to the prayer corner."

The comments came as jurors resumed deliberations after a one-hour dinner break Friday evening.

Sandusky, 68, is accused of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period in a case that stunned the university, refocused attention on the issue of child sexual abuse in the United States and led to the firing of Penn State President Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.

He faces about 500 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

The jury began its second day of deliberations Friday morning by rehearing testimony from two witnesses.

Acting on a request the jury made late Thursday, Cleland allowed the seven women and five men to hear a transcript reading of the testimony of Mike McQueary, an assistant coach who said he saw Sandusky molesting a boy in the Penn State football house showers in 2001.

In addition, a court employee read the transcript of testimony by Jonathan Dranov, a McQueary family friend who heard McQueary's version of events shortly after the incident. Dranov had testified McQueary was shaken when he spoke with him, but that he never reporting seeing a sexual act.

McQueary - then a graduate assistant, later an assistant coach and now on leave from the university - became a central figure in the case because his account ultimately led to the scandal that brought down Paterno, the coach who built Penn State into a college football powerhouse over half a century.

Paterno died of cancer in January, two months after being fired by the university for failing to act more forcefully upon hearing McQueary's story of what he saw.

After resuming deliberations, the jury came back to the court to ask the judge about rules of evidence regarding a Penn State janitor's testimony about Victim 8, one of two purported victims never to have been identified nor appear in court.

The judge said jurors must be satisfied there was other evidence of abuse beyond the janitor's statements.

The jury was sequestered before an explosive new accusation surfaced on Thursday after the testimony concluded.

Sandusky's adopted son Matt, 33, is accusing Sandusky of having abused him, despite previously denying he was molested. Matt Sandusky was adopted by the family after living with them as a foster child.

"Matt Sandusky contacted us and requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky's abuse," his lawyer, Andrew Shubin, said in a statement to the media co-signed by lawyer Justine Andronici. "This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt."

Jurors never heard from Matt Sandusky. Details of his accusations have not been disclosed.

Eight accusers, now aged 18 to 28, testified last week. They described in often graphic detail about meeting Sandusky as boys through his charity, the Second Mile, and then being abused. Some accusers said they were forced to have oral and anal sex with the coach.

Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola said in closing arguments that Sandusky - famed as the defensive mastermind at a program nicknamed Linebacker U - had been ruined by false allegations made by accusers hoping for a big payday in civil lawsuits.

He said those accusing his client had been coached by investigators and pressured by overzealous prosecutors.

After several hours of deliberations on Thursday, jurors said they wanted to rehear the testimony of McQueary and Dranov.

The morning after the 2001 shower incident, McQueary said, he telephoned Paterno and then went to Paterno's home to explain what he had witnessed - that he first heard sounds of rhythmic slapping coming from the showers, then peered in to see Sandusky hugging a prepubescent boy from behind.

About 10 days later, McQueary was called to a meeting with university officials and recounted what he had seen, but the incident went unreported to any law enforcement or child protective agency. The university's action was to ban Sandusky from bringing minors on campus.

Prosecutors allege Sandusky met at least three of his victims after the shower incident.

(Editing by Jim Loney and Stacey Joyce)