As Sandusky case goes to jury, adopted son makes allegations

Matt Sandusky, one of six adopted children of Jerry Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, released a statement Thursday saying his father molested him. Also Thursday, lawyers delivered closing arguments in the case.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

posted June 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm EDT

On the same afternoon that the criminal trial of Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky heads to the jury, lawyers for his adopted son released a statement saying his father molested him.

Matt Sandusky, one of six adopted children of the elder Mr. Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, said through his attorneys late Thursday that he had been preparing testimony in case he was called as a witness for the prosecution. The attorneys, Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici, said Matt Sandusky contacted them “during the trial” to arrange a meeting with the prosecutors to provide help for their case.

“At Matt’s request, we immediately arranged a meeting between him and the prosecutors and investigators,” a statement from the attorneys reads.

Jerry Sandusky was arrested in November and charged with 52 criminal counts related to the sexual molestation of 10 boys over a 15-year period. He says he is innocent of all charges, while prosecutors say he used a charity to carry on systematic abuse of boys in hotel rooms, locker room showers, and the basement of his home.

The attorney statement did not explain why the prosecution didn’t use the younger Mr. Sandusky as a witness against his father. The elder Sandusky never testified in the trial, and it is now speculated that he stayed off the stand because it would have made him vulnerable to charges from his son. Those charges would be considered more damaging because of their closer relationship.

The younger Sandusky was a foster child from The Second Mile, the charity operated by Jerry Sandusky. He was later adopted. Matt Sandusky was mentioned in the trial last week when one accuser said that he and Jerry Sandusky followed Matt into a locker room shower.

When the elder Sandusky was arrested and ordered under house arrest, Matt Sandusky’s ex-wife successfully obtained a court order that prevented their three children from sleeping over at the home of their grandparents.

On Thursday, Judge John Cleland reduced the counts to 48, saying one count duplicated another and two were not supported by the testimony presented in the trial. A fourth count was dropped earlier this week because Judge Cleland found the statute on which the charge was based was not in effect when the alleged incident took place.

Closing arguments ended early Thursday afternoon in the Centre County courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., with the lead attorneys on both sides questioning the credibility of each other’s witnesses.

Lead defense attorney Joseph Amendola used his 75-minute statement to tell jurors not to trust the eight accusers who testified last week. Mr. Amendola suggested they collectively embellished their stories in an effort to seek cash damages for a subsequent civil trial. He also criticized the testimony of two Pennsylvania state troopers who investigated the claims, suggesting they encouraged the victims to conspire and did not pursue alternate leads that might prove Sandusky’s innocence.

“The lawyers want to make all these dollars, but it still doesn’t mean Mr. Sandusky did this,” he said. “The system decided Mr. Sandusky was guilty, and the system set out to convict him.”

Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan shrugged off the defense strategy as unrealistic and desperate when weighed against what he described as “overwhelming” evidence against Sandusky: handwritten letters and gifts, the testimony of eight accusers, and the eyewitness account of Mike McQueary, an assistant football coach who was the only witness, aside from the accusers, to the alleged abuse.

“The great thing about conspiracy theories is you just let them go on and on, until they collapse under their own weight,” Mr. McGettigan said.

McGettigan also used Sandusky’s media appearances to suggest he was disconnected from reality. One example used was an NBC interview soon after his arrest in which he did not respond with a vehement denial when asked if he was attracted to boys.

Much of the case for both sides focused on Sandusky’s affectionate behavior and attitude toward the accusers. While the defense stressed his actions never became sexual and could be explained by a mental-health disorder that exaggerates romantic feelings, prosecutors said Sandusky was driven by a predatory instinct.

With both sides providing different interpretations of similar behavior, Cleland stressed to jurors which could be interpreted as criminal and which could not.

“It’s not necessarily a crime for a man to take a shower with a boy. It’s not necessarily a crime for a man to wash a boy’s hair or lather his back or shoulders or to engage in back rubbing,” Cleland said.

He said jurors needed to focus on Sandusky’s intent and not necessarily “the child’s reaction.”

Cleland ordered the jury sequestered while it deliberates. If a verdict is not reached Friday, they must continue through the weekend, he said.

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