Jerry Sandusky trial could hinge on testimony of alleged victims
Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State University coach, faces 52 criminal counts that he sexually abused 10 boys. Many of Sandusky's alleged victims are expected to testify for the prosecution.
Bellefonte, Penn. — A jury of seven women and five men will get their first glimpse of the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — and his defense — when opening statements begin inside a central Pennsylvania courthouse.
Sandusky's lawyers and state prosecutors have been under a gag order for months, so their outline of the case to jurors Monday should reveal new details about an investigation that has taken several years.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he has denied. Sandusky's lawyers were not able to get the judge to delay the trial, and on Friday Judge John Cleland rejected their request to have some or all of the counts dismissed.
A pair of scathing grand jury reports allege Sandusky sexually abused young boys he met through The Second Mile, a charity he established in 1977. Sandusky allegedly used his connection to the football program and gifts to groom boys for sexual contact that the grand jury said occurred at his home or in the team facility's on Penn State's campus.
Sandusky arrived shortly after 8 a.m. with his attorney, Joe Amendola. He didn't respond to questions but smiled briefly before entering the courthouse. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania courts system said Judge John Cleland called the courtroom into session just after 9 a.m.
Many of the alleged victims are expected to take the stand for the prosecution, and their credibility in jurors' eyes could prove to be the decisive factor in determining the verdict.
Slade McLaughlin, the attorney for the teen identified in the grand jury report as Victim 1, said he expects his client to testify Monday or Tuesday.
"He's in good spirits, very calm, very relaxed," McLaughlin said as he waited for a seat inside the courtroom.
Several dozen members of the public stood in line outside the courthouse, also hoping to get a seat. Outside, satellite trucks lined the streets of Bellefonte, the small town about 10 miles from Penn State where as massive media contingent gathered for the trial.
Snowboards, hockey sticks and other items described in a grand jury report as gifts lavished on one of the victims were carried into the courthouse before the start of the morning session.
Mindful of protecting the privacy of witnesses, officials set up a privacy tent at the rear of the courthouse while the doors were covered to obscure views of the witness-holding areas.
However the criminal case ends, when it comes to getting to the bottom of what happened, the trial will not be the final word.
The state attorney general's office has repeatedly indicated it has an "active and ongoing" related investigation, and the mere existence of the open investigation suggests additional criminal charges could result.
There also clearly is a federal investigation, but there are few details beyond the fact that Penn State said that in February it had been issued a wide-ranging subpoena from the U.S. attorney's office in Harrisburg, seeking computer records and other information.
Two Penn State administrators are awaiting trial on charges they failed to properly report suspected abuse and lied to the grand jury investigating Sandusky. The pending charges raise the prospect that investigators under the attorney general's office may be continuing to look into that matter, which commonly occurs after charges are filed and before trial.
Several of Sandusky's alleged victims have retained attorneys, although only one has so far filed a civil complaint. That case is on hold until Sandusky's trial wraps up, and other lawyers also have indicated they are holding back until a verdict is reached.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.