Grand jury probe hampers Sandusky pretrial hearing

5:01 PM, Apr 5, 2012   |    comments
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By Kevin Johnson
USA TODAY

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A state judge abruptly adjourned a pretrial hearing in the case of accused child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky on Thursday, saying the case remains "in flux" because a grand jury is continuing its investigation into the former assistant Penn State University football coach.

Judge John Cleland did, however, deny Sandusky's sweeping request for a dismissal of the criminal charges, but will allow defense attorney Joe Amendola to raise the issue at another time.

For Sandusky, charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 alleged child victims during a course of 15 years, the hearing was expected to be among the most consequential prior to his scheduled June 5 criminal trial. But Amendola said he was able to reach "agreements" on a number of issues. He also withdrew a request to throw out evidence gathered by prosecutors through electronic intercepts of telephone conversations involving two alleged victims and Sandusky.

Amendola said prosecutors provided the proper documentation supporting the intercepts, which involved conversations Sandusky had with victims identified as "Victim 1" and "Victim 9" in 2009 and 2011. In the conversations, Amendola said Sandusky never acknowledged any improper behavior. He said the former coach reached out to "Victim 9" to assist in his defense, not knowing that the victim was, by then, cooperating with state prosecutors.

Sandusky, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, smiled and conversed with Amendola following the 15-minute session, before both departed the courtroom.

Amendola said Sandusky's demeanor has improved following a recent court order allowing him more lattitude to visit friends and family. He remains under house arrest until his June trial.
"His spirits are much higher," Amendola said. "He has been able to see friends. And during this Easter weekend, he will be seeing many of his grandchildren."

Citing the secrecy shrouding the state grand jury's activity, neither Amendola nor Senior Deputy Attorney General Joe McGettigan said they could elaborate on the nature of the ongoing inquiry.

McGettigan, however, called Thursday's hearing a "pointless escapade" waged by Sandusky's lawyer who, he said, was intent on raising "frivolous issues" to draw increased media attention.

"I look forward to the day when the victims in this litany perversions get their day in court to confront the man who victimized them," McGettigan said following the hearing.
Despite the number of victims and charges, the prosecutor said it would take no more than two weeks to present its case at trial.

Sandusky, 68, has denied any wrongdoing in a case that has shaken Pennsylvania's largest university.

The criminal charges, first announced in November, prompted the ouster of university President Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in the history of college football who directed the Penn State program for nearly 50 years.
Spanier and Paterno, who died in January after waging a short battle with lung cancer, were not charged.

Former athletic director Tim Curley and former senior vice president Gary Schultz face related perjury charges for allegedly providing inaccurate information to the grand jury investigating Sandusky's alleged behavior and failing to report allegations of child sex abuse to law enforcement authorities.

At Thursday's hearing, Amendola said the administrators' lawyers notified him that their clients intend to assert their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination if they are called as witnesses at Sandusky's trial.

Curley and Schultz also have denied any wrongdoing.

The charges against Curley and Schultz hinge largely on the testimony of Penn State assistant football coach Michael McQueary, who told the grand jury that he witnessed Sandusky engaged in the apparent sexual assault of a child -- believed to be about 10 years old -- in the showers of a Penn State locker room in 2002.

According to the grand jury report, McQueary reported the incident to Curley and Schultz. The former administrators, however, denied that McQueary's account included details of a assault.

The alleged abuse involving Sandusky, as outlined by the state grand jury, range from inappropriate touching to an assault of a child in the basement of the coach's home.

USA TODAY

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