BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer said after a short pretrial hearing Thursday that he expected the presiding judge to soon dismiss defense motions to have the child sexual abuse charges thrown out, but he hoped he would allow them to be refiled after more evidence is disclosed by prosecutors.
During a 20-minute hearing attended by the retired defensive coordinator and his wife, Sandusky defense attorney Joe Amendola withdrew his attempt to prevent the attorney general’s office from using at trial secretly recorded conversations between Sandusky and two of the 10 boys he is accused of sexually abusing.
Judge John Cleland said it would probably be next week before he makes any rulings on the set of issues that are being ironed out before Sandusky’s trial on 52 child sexual abuse counts, which is scheduled to start in early June.
Amendola said Cleland told lawyers during a private session in chambers after the hearing that remaining matters should be addressed with a filing by mid-May.
“We’re still challenging all the charges, we’re still challenging all the issues that we raised,” Amendola told reporters afterward.
Prosecutor Joe McGettigan said he was looking forward to having the accusers offer their stories in sworn courtroom testimony. He was dismissive of Sandusky’s claim that the charges lack specificity.
“In fact, he has been provided with voluminous documentation of perversions against young children,” McGettigan said after the hearing.
Inside the courtroom, Amendola disclosed that prosecutors have provided him with thousands of pages of material, and that lawyers for two Penn State administrators have notified him that their clients will invoke their right against self-incrimination if called to testify in Sandusky’s trial.
Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz are awaiting trial on charges they failed to properly report child abuse and lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky. Amendola wants them to testify about the report they received in 2002 from a graduate assistant who says he saw Sandusky and a young boy, both naked, in a football team shower.
Amendola said the judge could split off the allegations related to that boy, described as Victim 2 in court records, for a separate trial, or that he could dismiss those charges if Curley and Schultz are not available as defense witnesses.
McGettigan told the judge that he wanted to be allowed to make a formal argument to Cleland that would demonstrate that the two administrators are not viable as defense witnesses and therefore the case regarding Victim 2 should not be delayed.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal counts for allegations that span 15 years. He is confined to home while awaiting trial and has repeatedly denied the charges. He did not actively participate in the courtroom hearing Thursday.
On another issue raised by Amendola – whether the statute of limitations has run out – the defense lawyer told Cleland that he disagrees with the current state of the law and expected the judge to dismiss his motion. Amendola said he wanted to preserve the question in the legal record for strategic reasons, perhaps for use in any potential appeal.
Cleland also must rule on a defense motion to throw out the search of Sandusky’s State College home in June that yielded computers, records, CDs, DVDs, photos and other items. Amendola said police appear to have entered the home legally, all but conceding the matter to prosecutors.
Afterward, Amendola told reporters that nothing from the search implicated his client.
Amendola also withdrew a motion to suppress an interview Sandusky gave to a Penn State police detective in 1998, when a mother’s complaint about her son showering with the coach prompted an investigation but no charges resulted.
Cleland said an ongoing grand jury investigation has complicated the case, making it premature for him to make any final decisions about what can be prosecuted. The defense is expected to get grand jury transcripts shortly before trial.
The judge also will have to decide whether to grant defense requests to have prospective jurors questioned individually and to sequester jurors during the trial. Prosecutors are not opposed, and the issue was barely discussed during Thursday’s hearing.
McGettigan said he expected the prosecution would need two weeks or less to put on its case.