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Judge John Cleland Recuses Himself From Sandusky Case, Suggests Disciplinary Action

Judge John Cleland, who has specially presided over the Jerry Sandusky case since its initial presentment in 2011, filed a court order this morning officially recusing himself from the case.

Cleland attached his opinion to the order explaining his reasons for recusing himself from presiding over further rulings in the case. He says Sandusky’s attorneys jeopardized the integrity of everyone associated with the grand jury investigation and subsequent trial and conviction. “Now [the defendant’s attorneys] have chosen to impugn the integrity of the court itself,” he said.

Sandusky attorneys requested Cleland’s recusal in May 2016 after finding out he met “off-the-record” with Judge Robert Scott in December 2011. Cleland denied the motion for recusal at that time, but says he “left the door open.”

Attorneys in Sandusky’s Post Conviction Relief Act case were ordered to submit their final trial briefs by November 14. In their brief, Cleland said Sandusky’s attorneys “had chosen to base their argument on what, because of my May 10, 2016 Memorandum and Order, they knew was an incomplete account of what happened at the meeting. Instead of asking me to revisit my recusal order and thereby obtain my testimony, they elected to rest on an a clearly misleading record.”

On November 15, Cleland ordered Sandusky’s attorneys to notify him if they planned to call him as a witness or to withdraw the footnote related to the meeting. Attorneys responded they would take neither action.

Cleland recused himself voluntarily, saying:

PCRA counsel have elected to call into question my fairness and impartiality without requesting my testimony and, by doing so, have created a cloud over these proceedings. It would be imprudent to allow such a cloud to linger and to permit it to cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the court, or any decision I would make on the merits of the defendant’s PCRA petition, especially when that cloud can be so easily dissipated by my voluntary recusal and by presenting my testimony before a judge appointed in my stead.

You can read the full order and opinion here.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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