I suppose the defense had to do this. The testimony again Jerry Sandusky looks solid. Someone needs to speak on his behalf because he certainly cannot to it himself without making things worse. Dottie Sandusky, Jerry’s wife, made the obvious choice. She is one the few people who can testify to what occurred at the home and on trips.
For instance, she countered Victim 4’s claim about what happened at the Alamo Bowl:
“I came in one day. It was like a bathroom and dressing area. They were standing there. I said ‘what’s going on’ because Jerry was very upset and we had asked (Victim 4) if he wanted to go to a luncheon which was $50, and he said he’d really like to go. And Jerry said OK, and it was the day of the luncheon and (Victim 4) wouldn’t go and Jerry knew I’d be very upset about spending the money.”
Dottie Sandusky told the court room that nothing seemed inappropriate about the exchange.
“They were just standing in little hallways, they were fully clothed,” she said.
She also testified to the couple’s nighttime routine:
Mrs. Sandusky told the jury today that she and her husband had always shared a bed and that her husband would usually go to bed first. She also testified that she would often go down to the basement to get food out of a freezer there.
Dottie also denied that the basement was soundproof, stating that a scream coming from the basement could be heard on the first floor.
Perhaps most damaging to the prosecutor’s case was Dottie’s testimony about the victims:
She also described Victim 4, who testified powerfully about the sex abuse he allegedly endured, as “demanding, and he was very conniving, and he wanted his way and didn’t listen a whole lot.”
That claim was backed by another witness who said that Victim 4 had a reputation for “dishonesty and embellished stories.”
Dottie also stated that Victim 1 was very clingy with Jerry:
“There was one time we were watching TV, and Jerry was in a La-Z-Boy, and (Victim 1) was on one couch. I was on another. And all of a sudden at a break he jumps up and runs and jumps in the chair with Jerry,” she said.
She recalled being invited along with her husband by Victim 1’s grandfather or mother to watch a wrestling match, and when they arrived, Victim 1 jumped up from a wrestling mat and ran “clear across the room and jumped up and hugged Jerry,” she said.
She also countered the claim that Jerry made the boys sleep in the basement, stating that they had the choice of sleeping in the basement or on the first floor or on the second floor when their children were not home.
While Dottie’s testimony does not and cannot undo the impact of eight young men’s accusations against her husband, it certainly does open the door to reasonable doubt, particularly with the strongest witnesses against Sandusky.
Amendola helped fan the fires of reasonable doubt with witnesses who recounted instances of Victim 1 and his mother talking about what they would get if they won the lawsuit:
The mother of Victim 1 was called to the stand and asked by Amendola whether she had ever expressed hope that by the end of the Sandusky case she would have “a big house in the country with a white fence where the dogs could run.”
She said she had never said such a thing.
Amendola then called the woman’s former next door neighbor who testified that she had said those exact words.
“Yeah she had said about when this all settles out she’ll have a nice big house in the country with a fence and the dogs can run free,” the man said, adding that Victim 1 had similar sentiments. “One statement he made was, ‘When this is over I’ll have a nice new Jeep.'”
Amendola may have scored his biggest points when he impeached the statements of several investigators:
Amendola suggested that Trooper Scott Rossman and Corporal Joseph Leiter had elicited some of those changes by encouraging the men to say they were abused.
He asked whether the investigators remembered telling Victim 4 during an early interview that “nine other kids” had come forward and some of them had told investigators that oral sex and rape had occurred, according to a transcript from the interview.
Rossman and Leiter denied that they shared with their interviewees specific information about the number of other accusers or sex acts that alleged victims had told them, but Amendola then read a transcript from an interview with the man being identified as Victim 4.
In the interview, Leiter said, “I want to let you know that you are not the only victim… I think there were nine. We interviewed about nine…. You are repeating word for word pretty much that others told us. We know there is a well-defined progression in the way he operated.. Progression goes on for an extended period of time… oral sex…”
The angle is simple: Amendola is trying to show that investigators coached these young men into making the accusations against Sandusky, hence the similarity of their claims. The problem is that these were not children. Most of the known cases of coaching on this scale happened with children, specifically young children. It seems unlikely that grown men would lie about being raped as children, particularly with the media scrutiny that would come with it.
However, prosecutor Joseph McGettigan cannot bring in any experts to explain that, leaving jurors with whatever impression they got from the testimony. It is possible that this testimony coupled with Dottie Sandusky’s comments can raise enough reasonable doubt with one juror to result in a mistrial. At the very least it could result in the jury acquitting on many of the charges against Sandusky.
Let me be clear, this is not a slam dunk defense. The expert Amendola put on did little to explain away the showering with boys or the sexual abuse complaints. The young men’s testimony was compelling and emotional, and it is hard to shake that without clear evidence that they lied.
That said, Amendola does not have to prove they lied. He just needs to ask the right questions. Is it possible that state troopers fed the young men information, causing them to make untrue statements? Is it possible that Victim 1 and his mother bragged about the money they would get? Is it possible that Victim 4 has a history of lying and embellishing? Is it possible the young men exaggerated how often they stayed on Sandusky’s house? All these questions are enough to raise reasonable doubt.
I doubt he can do it, but with such a small community and people knowing most of the people involved in the case it is possible this may work.