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January 30, 2013

Judge nixes Sandusky bid for new trial

HARRISBURG — Jerry Sandusky lost a bid for a new trial Wednesday when a judge rejected his argument that his lawyers were not given enough time to prepare for the three-week proceeding that ended with a 45-count guilty verdict on child sex abuse charges.

Judge John Cleland’s 27-page order said lawyers for the former Penn State assistant football coach conceded that their posttrial review turned up no material that would have changed their trial strategy.

“I do not think it can be said that either of the defendant’s trial counsel failed to test the prosecution’s case in a meaningful manner,” Cleland wrote. “The defendant’s attorneys subjected the commonwealth’s witnesses to meaningful and effective cross-examination, presented evidence for the defense and presented both a comprehensive opening statement and a clearly developed closing argument.”

He also rejected post-sentencing motions regarding jury instructions, hearsay testimony and a comment by the prosecution during closing arguments that referred to the fact that Sandusky, who did not testify at trial, gave media interviews after he was arrested in November 2011.

Cleland said the prosecution’s closing was not presented in a way that “was either calculated to, or did, create in the jurors a fixed bias toward the defendant.”

Sandusky also argued that charges should have been thrown out because they were not sufficiently specific, but Cleland said the lack of specific dates did not prevent Sandusky from pursuing an alibi defense.

“The defendant has simply argued the offenses did not happen,” Cleland said.

One of the jury instruction issues was whether Cleland should have talked to them about the amount of time it took for the victims to inform authorities that Sandusky had abused them.

“No one who has had the slightest experience with child sexual abuse or given a whit of thought to its dynamics could conclude that failure to make a prompt complaint, standing alone, is an accurate indicia of fabrication,” Cleland said.

Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence for the sexual abuse of 10 boys, including violent attacks inside Penn State athletics facilities.

Sandusky lawyer Norris Gelman said Wednesday that while he had not read the decision, Cleland’s ruling means an appeal will be filed to the mid-level Superior Court within the next 30 days.

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