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Jerry Sandusky: Defense tries to paint a positive portrait

June 19, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Former Penn State assistant football coaches Booker Brooks, left, and Dick Anderson testified in Jerry Sandusky's trial.
Former Penn State assistant football coaches Booker Brooks, left, and… (Nabil K. Mark / Centre Daily…)

The defense has begun the public rehabilitation of Jerry Sandusky, hoping to portray the former Penn State University assistant football coach as a normal human being rather than the predatory pedophile that prosecutors presented to the jury.

The prosecution rested its case Monday after calling 21 witnesses in a little more than four days. They included eight men who testified they had been abused while children and teenagers. They described in often graphic detail encounters with Sandusky, who met them through his charity, the Second Mile.

Efforts to refocus the jury’s vision began immediately after the prosecution rested, with friends and former teammates taking the stand to testify on behalf of the former coach.

PHOTOS: Who's who in the Sandusky case

Two former coaches at Penn State testified that Sandusky was a great guy and that showering with boys was nothing untoward in the athletic world. Sandusky’s persona as an especially good person is expected to be among the major defense themes on Tuesday and Wednesday as the case moves toward completion in Bellefonte, Pa.

The defense is expected to finish calling witnesses Wednesday, leaving Thursday for summations, Judge John M. Cleland told jurors Monday. The jury could get the case late Thursday or early Friday and would be sequestered.

The rapid pace of the defense means that lawyers will have to work at their principal goal: changing Sandusky’s image from the prosecution’s version to one of a humanitarian who worked with at-risk children.

The defense also has permission to argue   that Sandusky was suffering from “histrionic personality disorder,” characterized by overly dramatic gestures, to explain actions such as sending what the prosecution said were love letters to the young boys, giving them gifts and taking them on trips to see football games. The prosecution has argued that Sandusky was grooming the boys for sexual abuse.

Still unknown is whether Sandusky will take the stand. Lawyers hinted that might happen, although Sandusky could face a difficult time during cross-examination. In media interviews, he has said he showered with boys but has denied that anything criminal happened.

On Monday, Dick Anderson, a former Penn State, Rutgers and Lafayette College coach who played and coached with Sandusky at Penn State, testified that it was not uncommon for Sandusky to shower with boys and that other coaches were often there as well.

“If Jerry would bring someone in with the Second Mile, they had been working out, for whatever reason they came in, it was not uncommon … with the other coaches in the shower as well,” Anderson said, according to media reports from the courtroom.

As a top coach at the acclaimed Penn State football program, Sandusky had little time for anything other than football, Anderson testified. From Sunday through Wednesday, he worked 15 to 17 hours a day on football, Anderson said, and would not have had time to play racquetball or basketball as some of the accusers testified. Sandusky also had recruiting duties and made instructional videos.

Anderson said he considered Sandusky a close friend and said the coach had a “wonderful reputation” in the community and was “well thought of in every regard” before the charges.

Anderson said he too had showered with boys at Penn State and at the YMCA. He said he never saw anything inappropriate.

Another former Penn State coach, Booker Brooks Jr., said he showered with men when he was a boy and still showered with boys at the YMCA.

“It's a very common thing all over the country,” Brooks said, adding that Sandusky “was a great guy.”

At one point, according to media reports from the courtroom, the lead prosecutor, Senior Deputy Atty. Gen. Joseph E. McGettigan III, questioned Brooks’ comments.

“If a middle-aged man took an 8- or 9-year-old boy into the shower and hugged him, that would be the precursor to further bad behavior?” the prosecutor asked.

“Objection,” defense attorney Joseph Amendola interjected. “Calls for speculation.”

“There's a lot of speculation here,” Brooks retorted.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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