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Defense witnesses: Jerry Sandusky is a good man, a class act

June 19, 2012|By Michael Muskal

The defense in the Jerry Sandusky trial continued to present its character witnesses Tuesday, each testifying that the former Penn State football coach who is charged with sexually abusing children is a good person and a "class act."

Neighbors, friends and former professors at Penn State testified that Sandusky is a good man and father figure. The witnesses are part of the defense strategy to rehabilitate Sandusky’s image after more than four days of prosecution testimony that portrayed the former coach as a predatory pedophile. The defense also attacked the investigation that led to the criminal charges.

“All the people I know who know Jerry think he's a wonderful man,” said Joyce Porter, who lives in State College, Pa., where Sandusky resides. Porter said she has known Sandusky for 40 years.

PHOTOS: Who's who in the Sandusky case

Among those testifying were Jack Willenbrock, who attends the same church as Sandusky, and Lance Mehl, a former Penn State and Jets football player. Willenbrock called Sandusky a father figure while Mehl referred to the former coach as a class act, according to media reports from the courtroom.

The character witnesses are part of the second day of the defense’s presentation as it fights for Sandusky, 68, charged with 51 counts of abusing 10 boys over 15 years. If convicted, Sandusky faces hundreds of years in prison.

In addition to the character witnesses, the defense is seeking to undermine the quality of the investigation. Attorneys have questioned whether the eight accusers who say they were abused by Sandusky are acting out of greed, hoping for a big payday from civil suits against Sandusky and Penn State University.

The defense is expected to complete its case by Wednesday, Judge John Cleland has told the jury of seven women and five men in Bellefonte, Pa.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Joseph Amendola sharply questioned two police investigators about what they told prospective witnesses during the official interviews. One investigator, retired state police Cpl. Joseph Leiter, said that some of the witness were told that there were other accusers, but that was done to let possible victims know they were not alone.

Among the anticipated witnesses are experts who will testify about  “histrionic personality disorder,” --- overly dramatic actions. The defense has argued that Sandusky suffers from the disorder, which it says explains the love letters and gifts sent to some of the accusers.

The prosecution has called those actions grooming, designed to build a bond that Sandusky allegedly exploited later when he committed  inappropriate acts.

Still unclear is whether Sandusky himself will take the stand in his own defense. When he arrived at court on Tuesday, Amendola was asked whether his client would testify. 

“Stay tuned,” the lawyer replied. “Come on, it's like a soap, you have to wait and see.”

“Is it 'Days of our Lives?'“ a reporter asked.
.
“I think it's 'General Hospital,’ '“ Amendola replied.  Then, a moment later, after returning from parking his car, he quipped, “Actually it could be 'All My Children.’ “

Michael.muskal@latimes.com

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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