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Jerry Sandusky loses bid for new sex-abuse trial

January 30, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach convicted of sexually abusing boys, leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., in December 2011.
Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach convicted… (Matt Rourke / Associated…)

A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday rejected a bid for a new trial by Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach who was convicted of sexually abusing young boys.

In a 27-page ruling, Judge John Cleland, who presided over Sandusky’s high-profile trial last year, rejected a bid seeking a new trial on seven grounds, including that the defense wasn’t given enough time to prepare. Sandusky’s lawyer indicated he would appeal to a higher court.

Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in state prison after he was convicted of 45 counts involving the sexual abuse of 10 boys. Sandusky, who was part of Penn State’s football dynasty under the late head coach Joe Paterno, found and groomed his victims through a charity for disadvantaged children that Sandusky had helped start.

The case roiled the Penn State campus and led to the ouster of Paterno and the school’s president. The school is currently targeted in a series of civil cases from some of the victims, who were molested in the showers at the school’s football training facility.

Though the volume of court material was large, Cleland noted, the defense conceded at a recent hearing that it had found no material that would have changed the way it defended Sandusky.

“Counsel conceded, having reviewed the discovery material after the trial, he could find nothing that would have changed his trial strategy if he had had the benefit of it before trial,” Cleland wrote. “There was, in other words, no prejudice to the defendant.”

In all, Cleland rejected seven motions, each arguing a different set of grounds for ordering a new trial. In addition to the lack of preparation time, Sandusky’s appeal also alleged that there were problems with instructions to the jury and with allowing hearsay testimony, among other issues.

But Cleland rejected all of the claims, ruling that Sandusky presented a viable defense.

“I do not think it can be said that either of the defendant's trial counsel failed to test the prosecution's case in a meaningful manner,” Cleland wrote.

“The defendant's attorneys subjected the commonwealth's witnesses to meaningful and effective cross-examination, presented evidence for the defense and presented both a comprehensive opening statement and a clearly developed closing argument.”

Sandusky lawyer Norris Gelman said the decision means the defense will appeal to mid-level Superior Court within the next 30 days.

As part of the fallout to the Sandusky case, Penn State agreed to a $60-million fine to be paid to the NCAA, college football's governing body, and other stringent sanctions. The school has already made the first payment.

But state officials said they were distressed by the sanctions and Gov. Tom Corbett filed a federal anti-trust suit.

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