Bellefonte Prepares for Sandusky Hearing
Local and state officials are preparing for the inevitable media swarm to descend on Bellefonte next Tuesday, December 13, when the Jerry Sandusky preliminary trial is set to take place. It appears they’re not playing any games.
Centre Country released a map that looks more like a war plan than a public document. There will be multiple road closures and parking will come at a premium. Even the local YMCA near the Centre County Courthouse is planning to close on the day of the hearing.
The media rules and procedures, released in a five-page decorum signed by the judge, left little room for interpretation. Down the to the port-a-potties being installed outside of the courthouse, Centre County is trying to cover all the bases.
Because the courthouse only holds 200 people, it was decided that only 100 media credentials would be issued and 100 tickets would be issued to the general public. The general public tickets will be distributed by a random raffle process. People interested in tickets can apply on the Centre County website. A 360 degree virtual tour of the court house is available on StateCollege.com.
Whoever said that print media is dead certainly didn’t inform Centre County. The breakdown for media credentials is as follows: 45 percent for print media, 45 percent for broadcast media, and 10 percent for internet media.
The two outlets responsible for distributing media credentials are the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters. With the lack of representation of online media in the decision-making process, it comes as no surprise that such a small portion of credentials are reserved for these outlets, but that is a debate for another time.
There will also be an additional media room adjacent to the court house for another 100 media members to watch a live stream of the trial.
Perhaps the most noteworthy rule issued to media members is regarding transmission of information from the court room. All cell phones, laptops, and other devices that can transmit data are prohibited to be used at any time during the hearing. What that means is — unless someone from the media wants to risk being held in contempt of court — there will be no information available to the public until the first recess sometime during the afternoon. Media members will then be allowed to file stories and proceed with correspondence.
On a day where five of the alleged victims are expected to testify, this delay in information transfer is startling.
The national media spotlight will be focused squarely on this small Victorian town of 6,000 next Tuesday afternoon. If the precautions being issued an entire week an advance are any indication, state and local officials know exactly what they’re in for.
And it’s only just the beginning.