Sandusky Wants a Centre County Jury, Cleland Aims For May Trial Date
NOTE: The teacher who was mentioned in Detective Sassano’s testimony today is an after-school worker not employed by the State College Area School District or Lemont Elementary per a source from the district. Any disruption in the classroom occurred during that after-hours program and not during the regular school day. Our story has been updated to include this new information.
Judge John M. Cleland heard five separate motions this morning from Jerry Sandusky’s defense team and the prosecution from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Sandusky’s attorneys asked that the Grand Jury testimony be released to them so they can plan their defense. Defense attorney Karl Rominger insisted that he would like the release of the testimony “as soon as possible.”
Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s main attorney, also requested three modifications to Sandusky’s bail conditions: the allowance of communication and visitation with his grandchildren, visitation rights for family friends (1-2 hours per week), and the ability for Sandusky to travel with his legal team in order to help build his defense. Sandusky is currently on house arrest, and no person outside of his immediate family is permitted to visit him in his home.
After a short discussion, Centre County Detective Anthony Sassano was called to the stand. He testified that one of Sandusky’s neighbors has recorded 3-4 videos of him on his porch overlooking Lemont Elementary School, which will be submitted as evidence. Additionally, the detective testified that a teacher in the after-school program claims that Jerry Sandusky was seen out on his deck while many children were outside during recess. Parents have complained that Sandusky is seen by their children while they are in the classroom, which creates a disruptive scene, and many parents fear for their child’s safety. Sassano noted that there is about 30 feet between Sandusky’s deck and the Lemont Elementary School playground.
Amendola argued that he was never told about any complaints regarding his client’s contact with children. The Commonwealth continued by saying that house arrest is a privilege, and that Sandusky is lucky that he isn’t incarcerated.
“This home has not been safe for children for 15 years, and it’s not safe for children now,” the prosecution claimed.
The motion regarding a change of venire followed. The Commonwealth proposed that it would be challenging to find a non-biased jury in Centre County considering the extensive media coverage that the case has garnered. Amendola insists that he has never had an issue in finding a jury in Centre County with other highly-publicized cases in the area, presumably referring to the rape allegations against former Penn State football player Austin Scott in 2007 (charges were later dropped).
“My experience in Centre County is that the people here are hard-working, good people, who will do their job,” he said.
Judge Cleland then called Sandusky to the witness stand to verify the transgressions. Sandusky testified that he would prefer the jury to be selected from Centre County. He also testified that he understood that keeping a Centre County jury would result in waiving the right to claim an unfair trial. Sandusky showed signs excessive nervous laughter at many of the Judge’s questions, which caused some criticism about his demeanor from those in attendance. Amendola would say after the proceedings, “That’s just Jerry’s personality.”
Judge Cleland said that he would rule on these motions quickly, and the prosecution expects to hear a decision by early next week. The target date for the upcoming trial, in which Sandusky is charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse against 12 different minors, is said to be May 14th, 2012.
Sandusky also spoke briefly outside the courthouse following the proceedings, accompanied by his wife Dottie and his defense team. His statement can be seen below.
Editor Kevin Horne also contributed to this report.