Closing arguments set for Sandusky abuse trial

Closing arguments set for Sandusky abuse trial

June 21st, 2012 by Associated Press in Local - Breaking News

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky exits the courthouse after the defense rested it's case at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Sandusky is charged with 51 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a period of 15 years. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

GENARO C. ARMAS and MARK SCOLFORO

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) - Seven women and five men poised to hear closing arguments in Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse trial would begin jury deliberations without the benefit of having the former Penn State assistant football coach take the witness stand in his own defense.

More than a week of often-explicit testimony wrapped up Wednesday after Sandusky's defense team rested without calling their client. That set up closing arguments for Thursday morning, and jurors could start meeting behind closed doors that afternoon to start weighing Sandusky's fate.

Once famed for his coaching acumen, Sandusky is charged with 51 criminal counts for the alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years in hotels, at his home and in the football team's showers. Sandusky has maintained his innocence, and his attorneys have tried to weaken the prosecution's case by discrediting police investigators and suggesting that accusers are hoping to cash in on potential civil lawsuits.

Sandusky's arrest in November sparked an explosive scandal that led to the ousters of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and the university president, and cast a critical eye on the role of college administrators in reporting abuse allegations. The sweeping case also led to renewed focus on child abuse issues.

The defense called just four new witnesses Wednesday, including a physician who they used to try to poke holes in the story of a Penn State assistant coach who testified that he saw Sandusky sexually assault a boy in the team showers more than a decade ago.

Defense attorneys finished in three days, resting around lunchtime Wednesday only after a longer-than-expected recess during which Sandusky and his lawyers huddled in private amid rampant speculation in the courtroom that he would take the witness stand.

Now, closing statements await the 12 jurors in a trial moving at a quick pace, more briskly than even the three-week time frame that Judge John Cleland had once estimated.

Cleland said he will begin Thursday by issuing jury instructions. The defense would then present its closing remarks before the prosecution takes its turn.

Then it's the jury that will determine the schedule depending on how long they take in deliberations. If convicted, the 68-year-old former defensive coordinator could be sent to state prison for the rest of his life.

Jurors will have to decide whether the defense was able to create sufficient doubt based on how the investigation was conducted, the reliability and motives of the accusers, and Sandusky's decades-long reputation as a man who worked tirelessly to help underprivileged children.

Prosecutors called 22 witnesses, including eight young men, ages 18 to 28, who alleged a range of abuse from grooming, kissing and massaging to fondling, oral sex and anal rape when they were boys.

Many of the 28 defense witnesses testified briefly to vouch for Sandusky's reputation. The defense's case has consisted of character witnesses who defended Sandusky's reputation, a psychologist who said Sandusky had a personality disorder and the ex-coach's wife, who said she did not see her husband do anything inappropriate with the accusers. His lawyers showed that an investigator had shared information with an accuser about other alleged victims' stories and repeatedly suggested that accusers have financial motivations for their claims.

Sandusky was only heard from via a November interview with NBC's Bob Costas, saying he probably shouldn't have showered with boys; and in letters he wrote to one of his accusers.

One of the last witnesses called was Dr. Jonathan Dranov, a physician summoned to the home of Mike McQueary's father in February 2001 to hear McQueary's account of seeing Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the campus showers. The boy, known only as Victim 2, has never been identified and isn't known to prosecutors.

Dranov testified that McQueary told of hearing "sexual sounds" and seeing a boy in the shower before an arm reached around to pull him out of view. McQueary said he made eye contact with the boy and Sandusky later emerged from the showers, Dranov said.

That account is different from what McQueary told a grand jury and testified to at a preliminary hearing and at the trial. He has said he saw Sandusky directly behind the boy's back, moving his midsection enough to convince McQueary it was a sex act.

Dranov told the jury that McQueary described hearing sounds he considered sexual in nature but did not provide him with a graphic description of what he saw.

"It just seemed to make him upset so I backed off that," Dranov said.

Asked to describe McQueary's demeanor, Dranov said: "His voice was trembling. His hands were shaking. He was visibly shaken," Dranov said.

McQueary's report to his superiors - and Penn State officials' failure to go to outside law enforcement - led to the firing of Paterno, who died of cancer in January.

McQueary had testified earlier in the trial that he wasn't "over-descriptive" in his conversation with Dranov, saying he told the doctor that what he saw was sexual, wrong and perverse.

David Hilton, who met Sandusky through a summer camp of his charity, testified Wednesday he felt like investigators were trying to coach him into accusing Sandusky.

"When it got to the second or third time I felt like they wanted me to say something that isn't true," he said.

During cross examination, lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan told Hilton that Hilton's uncle had contacted authorities out of concern after hearing of the initial charges against Sandusky.

Prosecutors allege that Sandusky met his alleged victims through The Second Mile charity. Sandusky founded the organization that once was lauded for its efforts to help at-risk children.

Sandusky didn't take the stand after his lawyer suggested in opening statements that he might and a day after his wife, Dottie, testified. In interviews Sandusky did shortly after his arrest in November, with the support and presence of defense attorney Joe Amendola, his responses were halting and uncertain, raising doubts about how he might stand up to cross-examination.

Criminal defendants in Pennsylvania, in serious crimes, generally are required to waive their right to testify on their own behalf, although that does not always happen in open court.

One of the jurors was excused from the case Wednesday with an illness; the female juror was replaced by an alternate, also a woman.

Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger also asked Cleland to dismiss five counts related to so-called Victim 8, the other boy never identified by investigators. Rominger argued that the timing of the charges had not been proven by the testimony of a janitor's co-worker, who said the janitor had told him he saw Sandusky molest the boy in a shower. The Penn State janitor himself was ruled not medically competent to testify.

The judge didn't immediately rule on the motion.