Sandusky trial: Opening statements and testimony

Today the trial against Jerry Sandusky finally started. The state and defense attorneys both gave their opening statements. One of the young men accusing Sandusky, known as Victim 4 to the pubic, also testified.

Fair warning to the readers: some of this will be graphic.

State prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan III opened the day by showing the jury pictures of the young men accusing Sandusky when they were still children. The young men’s names were revealed in court, as is procedure, but so far none of the media outlets have revealed their names. McGettigan’s argument was the typical fare for sex abuse cases. He tried to humanize the young men and bring home what they allege Sandusky did to them by specifically describing the acts.

Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s attorney, proved that he has not learned anything in the last few months. He said in his opening statement, “This is a daunting task, the state has overwhelming evidence against Mr. Sandsuky. A tidal wave of media coverage, so many accusers. I just don’t know [what to say] …One of the keys to this case is to keep an open mind. What you are going to hear originally is going to be very, very easy to say, ‘I’ve heard enough, I don’t want to hear it. This is awful.’ “

Sandusky is entailed to a fair trial, but how can he have one when his own attorney admits the state has evidence against him?

Amendola has very little to work with. Mike McQueary is a problem for the state in that he is not the most likable individual, however, there is evidence supporting the state’s argument that Penn State officials covered up the incident McQueary reported.

Amendola can also try to impeach some of the young men’s testimony by noting that they continued to associate with Sandusky after the alleged abuse ended. State procedure prevents prosecutors from putting on expert witnesses to explain how abuse victims behave, so Amendola can paint that picture with impunity. However, the victims can explain that away during redirect.

The other angle Amendola plans on playing is that the young men conspired to accuse Sandusky in order to get a settlement. Apparently lawsuits have already been filed and at least one accuser, the young man who testified today known as Victim 4, got an attorney before he went to the attorney general or testified before the grand jury.

There is also this:

Amendola even tried to downplay the practice of a grown man showering with young boys.

“Those of you who have been in athletics, it’s routine that after a workout you have a shower,” Amendola said. “What Jerry would do is shower with them. That’s not a crime.”

While that may be true, it really does not look good and is not a good defense against the other allegations.

Amendola also noted that the government had several chances to charge Sandusky but failed to do so. That may be the best angle Amendola has because if authorities investigated Sandusky several times over incidents involving some of the young men testifying against him now and nothing came of it reasonable can come into play.

But that is not much to work with, particularly after testimony like what Victim 4 gave in court today:

“He would put his hand on my leg, basically like I was his girlfriend … it freaked me out extremely bad,” the man said, extending his right arm out and pushing it back and forth.

“I pushed it away … after a little while, it would come right back. That drove me nuts,” he said.

Instances in the shower, the man testified, escalated to the point where either Sandusky maneuvered himself so his head would be near the boy’s genitals, or vice versa. The man testified that there were “a few occasions” where Sandusky ejaculated in the Penn State locker room showers.

He also stated:

“He came in and started to push down on me to motion me to go down there. I resisted but didn’t say anything but was hesitant, and he said, ‘You don’t want to go back to Snow Shoe do you?'” Victim 4 said, referring to the town where he was living at the time. “He was trying to get me to give him oral sex and threatening me if not.”

“What happened then is literally 10 seconds later, the bathroom door is not shut completely… and the other door is open, and I heard Dottie say ‘Jerry’ and he ran out. And she said, ‘What are you doing in there?'” Victim 4 testified.

Amendola tried to counter this by questioning a monetary agreed the young man signed with Sandusky:

The witness said the offer in 1999 was called the “Program” and was ostensibly made to ensure that the boy would continue with his studies and athletics. It promised $1,000 for every year of education the boy pursued after high school, plus additional money for seeing Sandusky, going to hockey practice, and working out 3 times a week, he testified.

But Victim 4 said the proposed deal came as he tired of years of sexual abuse, as often as three times a week for three years. When asked by Sandusky’s lawyer Joseph Amendola whether the offer was made in good faith, the witness rejected that suggestion.

“No, no. You’re not understanding. This is when I’m trying to get away from him. I signed it to shut him up. And that’s not the only thing it’s offering me money for… It’s not that simple, not in my mind, sorry,” he said.

One of the “love letters” Sandusky sent to the young man was also read into the record, which stated, “I know that I have made my share of mistakes,” the letter read. “However I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart.”

It really does not look good for Sandusky, which makes this tactic all the stranger:

And the defense unveiled its own opener shocker, saying Sandusky will take the witness stand. In an unexpected and aggressive move, attorney Joe Amendola said Sandusky will explain himself directly to the jury. That decision came as a surprise to prosecutors, who expected to hear Sandusky’s words only through the testimony of alleged victims.

Did Amendola not watch the Bob Costas interview? He did not have to interrupt Sandusky in another interview to explain away Sandusky’s statements? Does Amendola not realize that Sandusky’s prior interviews are public record and therefore can be used at trial? Why put Sandusky on the stand when he could not manage two softball interviews? Even if Sandusky is innocent, he comes across as guilty, and creepy, when he talks. If he is guilty, he will just make it worse. You do not put this man on the stand.

Of course, all of this must be put in perspective. Amendola has not presented his case and we do not know what evidence he has supporting his arguments. It is possible that the young men are conspiring against Sandusky. It is also possible that only a couple of the young men are conspiring against him. It is also possible that they all incidentally decided to frame him. It is also possible that the state is out to get Sandusky. This would not be the first time the state tried to make a spectacle out of a famous person and yet was completely unable to prove its case (the Michael Jackson trial comes to mind).

Granted, none of that is likely, yet it is still possible.

We need to wait and see what Amendola’s defense strategy will be. But for now it looks iike Sandusky is guilty as sin and completely oblivious to why people have a problem with what he is accused of doing. And he really needs a different attorney.


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