Judge in Sandusky trial deciding on info defence will get
The judge in Jerry Sandusky's criminal case Wednesday did not immediately resolve remaining disputes over what information the defence is entitled to from schools, child services agencies and others, but he said he wanted to swiftly resolve the disagreements and push the case toward trial.
Judge John Cleland also did not rule on lawyer Joe Amendola's new request to delay the start of trial, currently scheduled for June 5, but he did open a pretrial hearing Wednesday by noting the "trial is approaching" for the former Penn State assistant football coach.
Cleland said he may throw out parts of some defence subpoenas rather than quash entire demands. He also suggested he would review some of the documentation in private to try to quickly resolve some of the disagreements.
Pennsylvania law, the judge said, contains a "normally predominant principle that we should use all legitimate means to ascertain the truth."
Sandusky, 68, is largely confined to his State College home to await the start of his trial on 52 criminal counts involving 10 boys over 15 years, and was not in the courtroom for the proceeding, which lasted less than two hours. He has denied the allegations.
Amendola has made dozens of requests for records or other material, much of it background information on the accusers, including school transcripts, medical records going back to birth, Internet search histories, Facebook account details, employment-related documents and cellphone and Twitter records. Going into the hearing prosecutors were prepared to review the state of the requests to the attorney general's office, but Amendola appeared to take them by surprise by announcing there were no remaining discovery disputes with them.
The requests to schools, agencies and others consumed the bulk of the hearing. Cleland said some elements of the defence subpoenas may be too broad, but he also suggested to lawyers that he would likely just black out the parts they do not have to provide.
In some cases, lawyers said they did not have information being sought, or were willing to turn over specific records. In other cases, they argued that material was exempt from disclosure.
"Any information we get, we will keep in the strictest confidence," Amendola said. "We have taken great lengths to keep things confidential that we receive that are private in nature."
Amendola told the judge the defence is looking for "any evidence that these students suffered from behavioural issues, mental health issues, prior to their contact with The Second Mile or the defendant." Sandusky founded The Second Mile as a charity for at-risk youth and met many of his alleged victims there.
The charity's lawyer, Howard Rosenthal, said it shouldn't be forced to turn over some of the material and noted that two of the alleged victims object to any disclosure of their records to Sandusky.
Amendola said that "a number" of the accusers have criminal records and that he suspects prosecutors will try to argue the accusers' legal problems stem from the abuse they endured as children.
Amendola said in his request to delay the trial that the defence team needs more time to find and interview witnesses, and that pending criminal charges against two potential witnesses, Penn State administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, have made them unavailable as witnesses in June.
Jim Koval, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, said after the hearing that Cleland did not intend to rule on the delay request on Wednesday.
Lawyers for Curley, the school's athletic director now on leave, and Schultz, the retired vice-president who supervised campus police, have indicated their clients will invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify if called.
Challenges to the subpoenas were filed by three central Pennsylvania school districts, two county child welfare agencies, Juniata College and three state agencies, as well as Alycia Chambers, a psychologist who treated the young man described in court records as Victim 6.
Cleland did rule in one matter, denying a request by the National Center for Victims of Crime to be allowed to weigh in in support of the efforts to throw out subpoenas. Cleland said there was no appellate court guidance on a friend-of-the-court brief under those circumstances. But he also said the accusers in the case have not been established, in a legal sense, to be victims of Sandusky.
"Although we have loosely referred to victims in this case, until the commonwealth proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has occurred, there are none," Cleland said.
The charges against Sandusky concern his relationships with boys between 1994 and 2008. Prosecutors allege Sandusky groomed the boys for sexual abuse, offering gifts and a connection to the Penn State football team in addition to companionship.
At least some of the alleged abuse happened in the Penn State football team's facilities, prosecutors said. One of the alleged attacks was witnessed by former receivers' coach Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant.
The ensuing scandal led to the firing of longtime football coach Joe Paterno and the ouster of university President Graham Spanier.