The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 18, 2012

Sandusky defense opens with talk of reputation

BELLEFONTE — Jerry Sandusky opened his defense in his molestation trial Monday with character witnesses who defended his reputation, including a former Penn State coach who said he knew Sandusky took boys into showers but never saw him do anything wrong.

The six witnesses, one who called Sandusky a “local hero,” did little to directly counter the testimony last week by eight young men who accused the former Penn State assistant football coach of sexually abusing them when they were children.

Judge John Cleland told jurors Sandusky’s defense has about a day and a half left of testimony and that they could begin deliberations on the case as early as Thursday, a quicker schedule than had been expected.

Sandusky looked an Associated Press reporter in the eye and said nothing when asked if he planned to testify.

Other possible defense witnesses to come include his wife, Dottie; and an expert who could discuss whether Sandusky has “histrionic personality disorder,” which experts have called a personality disorder characterized by inappropriate sexual behavior and erratic emotions.

The list of potential witnesses also includes a physician who spoke with key prosecution witness Mike McQueary the night he said he saw Sandusky attack a child in a football team shower in 2001 and members of former football coach Joe Paterno’s family, although it was unclear how they might fit into the defense case or whether they will be called.

Sandusky’s arrest led the university trustees to fire Paterno as coach in November, saying his response to the 2001 report from McQueary showed a lack of leadership. Paterno died of cancer in January.

Dick Anderson, a longtime Penn State assistant and Sandusky friend who retired in January, testified that he and other members of the football staff were present when Sandusky brought young boys into the team’s showers.

He said he never witnessed anything inappropriate.

“If Jerry would bring someone in with The Second Mile, they had been working out, for whatever reason they came in, it was not uncommon ... with the other coaches in the shower as well,” Anderson said, referring to the charity for at-risk children Sandusky founded in 1977.

Anderson, who coached at Penn State from 1970 to 1983 and again from 1990 through the 2011 season, said adults and children often shower together at gyms. He noted, for example, that it’s not unusual for him to be in the showers with boys at the YMCA.

Prosecutors claim Sandusky targeted his victims at The Second Mile, groomed them for abuse, then moved from touching and kissing to more severe forms of sexual abuse, including in some cases oral or anal sex. Sandusky has denied the allegations against him, acknowledging he showered with boys but saying he never molested them.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors told the judge they were dropping one of the 52 counts, that of felony unlawful contact with the accuser known as Victim 7.

Prosecutors rested their case after calling their 21st witness, the mother of so-called Victim 9, a recent high school graduate who testified last week that Sandusky raped him in the basement of the coach’s suburban home.

In December, prosecutors brought more charges against Sandusky, alleging he’d had forced anal sex with the boy.

Victim 9’s mother said the boy’s laundry would often be short of underwear and he would claim he had thrown it away because he had an accident. Last week, the teen said Sandusky forced him to have anal sex that made him bleed.

The defense’s case focused largely on Sandusky’s reputation. Anderson said he was “well thought of in every regard,” former Penn State assistant coach Booker Brooks called his reputation “exemplary, top-knotch,” and local political consultant Brent Pasquinelli, who raised money for The Second Mile, called him “a local hero.”

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