Jerry Sandusky trial: Dottie Sandusky testifies
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Jerry Sandusky had an inspiring reputation for helping youth, and boasted such a soft spot for children that he invited them to watch Penn State football games and spend the night at his home, witnesses for the retired coach testified at his child molestation trial.
On Wednesday, Sandusky might finally tell his side of the story in court.
Testimony appears to be nearing an end. Judge John Cleland has said Sandusky's defense team could wrap up Wednesday, which would mean closing statements taking place Thursday and deliberations beginning that afternoon. It's still unclear whether Sandusky will testify on his own behalf.
So far, defense attorneys have called on a parade of character witnesses and tried to discredit police investigators in trying to counter the graphic testimony of eight accusers. Their most notable witness to date — Sandusky's wife, Dottie, smiled as she took the witness stand Tuesday to defend him against charges he sexually abused boys in their home and on Penn State's campus.
Dottie Sandusky said she remembered most but not all of the eight men who have accused her husband of abusing them as children. She told jurors she did not see him have inappropriate contact with them over the years they visited the couple's home or traveled with them.
In a calm voice, she described her 45-year marriage to the former Penn State assistant football coach, but lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan appeared to stump her when he asked why the men might lie in making the accusations.
"I don't know what it would be for," she said, with a slight shake of her head. Early on in her testimony, defense attorney Joseph Amendola, who typically questioned witnesses at the defense table, stood up to question her near the jury box — which put her husband out of her direct sightline during most of her hour on the witness stand.
A large portion of the day's testimony, which included 11 more character witnesses, consisted of a defense psychologist, Elliott Atkins, who told jurors he believes Jerry Sandusky has a personality disorder that might explain letters addressed to one of his accusers.
Prosecutors countered with psychiatrist Dr. John Sebastian O'Brien II, who said that was not the case but that he might suffer from some other problem, possibly psychosexual disorder with a focus on pre-adolescents.
Sandusky is charged with dozens of criminal counts related to 10 boys over a 15-year span. He's accused of engaging in illegal sexual contact ranging from fondling to forced oral and anal sex, and he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
Dottie Sandusky has stood by her husband, posting his bail, accompanying him to court proceedings and in December issuing a statement that proclaimed his innocence and said that accusers were making up their stories.
Part of the defense strategy is clearly to show that the details of accusers' stories are wrong, but Dottie Sandusky was unable to say with much preciseness how often certain boys would stay in the couple's State College home. She said one of the boys, called Victim 10 in court records, she did not know at all.
She described Victim 1 as "clingy," Victim 9 as "a charmer" and Victim 4 as "very conniving, and he wanted his way and he didn't listen a whole lot."
Victim 9 testified last week that he was attacked by Jerry Sandusky in the basement of the ex-coach's home and cried out for help when Dottie Sandusky was upstairs. She, however, said the basement was not soundproof and she would have been able to hear shouting if she was upstairs.
Dottie Sandusky, who isn't charged in the case, also said the visiting boys were free to sleep upstairs if they wanted to do so. The accusers have said Jerry Sandusky directed them to the basement, where they allege he sometimes molested them.
Police handling of an initial interview with Victim 4 may have helped the defense. Now-retired Cpl. Joseph A. Leiter testified police "never told any of them what anyone else had ever told us" before jurors were played a tape of that interview, in which Leiter told Victim 4 that they had been told by others that oral sex and a rape had occurred. Leiter also said that "in some of our interviews ... we did" tell accusers that others had come forward.
"Each of these accusers was very, very seriously injured, and very concerned, and we had told them — especially prior to going to the grand jury — that they wouldn't be alone, that there were others," he said.
Also, Leiter told jurors after a recess that he had discussed his testimony with Trooper Scott Rossman over the break, shortly after Rossman told jurors that such a discussion had not occurred.
Victim 4's attorney, Ben Andreozzi, was there the day of that initial interview, and he told jurors a guilty verdict in Sandusky's trial could have an impact on his client if he files a civil lawsuit. He said a decision about a lawsuit has not been made.
The potential for accusers to cash in through a civil lawsuit is part of Sandusky's defense strategy, suggesting to the jury that the accusers have motives to lie.
A witness told jurors that she knew Victim 4 through her brother and that he had a reputation for "dishonesty and embellished stories." The woman, who said her brother was the accuser's best friend, is an Iraq war veteran who suffered a brain injury before she was discharged.
Witness Joshua Frabel, who lived next door to Victim 1, recalled that the young man's mother said she had just heard Sandusky molested her child and that she would end up owning Sandusky's house.
"She had said about, when all this settles out, she'll have a nice big house in the country with a fence, and the dogs can run free," he said.
He added that Victim 1 told him: "When this is over, I'll have a nice new Jeep."
The mother took the witness stand to deny it, and Victim 1 denied it last week during his testimony.
The defense also called former New York Jets linebacker Lance Mehl, who played for the Nittany Lions in the 1970s. When Amendola asked him about Sandusky's reputation, he replied, "We all looked up to him as a class act."
Prosecutors allege that Sandusky met his alleged victims through The Second Mile, a charity he founded. It once was lauded for its efforts to help at-risk children.
Experts have said that having Sandusky himself testify could be a risk, especially given that he would face tough cross-examination from McGettigan, a seasoned prosecutor. Statements made by Sandusky in an interview in November with NBC's Bob Costas could also hurt him.
NBC this week said prosecutors had contacted a network lawyer asking to re-authenticate a full unedited transcript of the interview, including an unaired portion.
"Many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods and ... what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life," Sandusky said in one exchange that went unaired, according to NBC. "And I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I've helped. There are many that I didn't have — I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways."
Prosecutors rested their case Monday after presenting 21 witnesses, including eight who said they had been assaulted by Sandusky. The identities of two other people prosecutors say were victims are unknown to investigators. The defense has called 24 witnesses.
Sandusky's arrest led the university trustees to fire football coach Joe Paterno in November, saying his response to a 2001 report from team assistant Mike McQueary about seeing Sandusky in a shower with a boy showed a lack of leadership. Paterno, who said he wished he had done more, died of cancer in January.
Sandusky has acknowledged showering with boys but says he didn't molest them.