Sandusky seeks less harsh Pa. prison setting
HARRISBURG – A lawyer for former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky said Friday his client has gotten his fighting spirit back after his child abuse conviction and sentencing and hopes prison officials will find a way to house him under less restrictive conditions than he currently experiences.
Karl Rominger said after spending several hours with Sandusky at SCI-Greene in Southwestern Pennsylvania Friday that Sandusky’s outlook has improved since he was sentenced two months ago to decades behind bars. He said they discussed pending post-sentencing motions and plans for an appeal.
“I was meeting with a man who was again ready to press forward, who has regenerated his energies and has clearly devoted his time and energy to perfecting that appeal,” Rominger said. “His fight is 100 percent back.”
Rominger said Sandusky, 68, rates as a Level 2 inmate on a five-level security classification but is being kept under much more severe Level 5 conditions. He said Sandusky is alone in his cell for 23 hours a day during the week and around the clock on weekends.
Rominger said Sandusky has been allowed two phone calls a month, while other Level 5 prisoners get only one. Sandusky also has been issued a television, which Rominger said would not be the case for a typical Level 5 prisoner.
He said he planned to write to the prison’s warden.
“We’re not completely devoid of common sense,” Rominger said. “We understand the prison system is trying to balance their concerns about physical safety. We are just looking for middle ground.”
Sandusky, a Washington native and former assistant to head football coach Joe Paterno, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, some on campus. He didn’t testify at his trial but has maintained his innocence. He’s serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.
The abuse scandal rocked Penn State, bringing down Paterno and the university’s then-president and leading college sports’ governing body, the NCAA, to levy unprecedented sanctions against the university’s football program. Criminal charges are pending against three former high-ranking university officials accused of helping to cover up abuse complaints, but they say they’re innocent.
Sandusky’s post-sentencing motions will be the subject of arguments before a judge Jan. 10 in Bellefonte, and Rominger said preparations would be much easier if Sandusky had more regular access to a phone.
Family members have visited Sandusky, but Friday was the first time he has met with his legal team at the prison.
“It’s a tough life, Level 5,” Rominger said. “And I know some people in the public will say, ‘Who cares?’ But the answer is, I thought we believe in equality in America. And while he’s a convicted sex offender in Pennsylvania, he would like to be treated like every other convicted sex offender.”
Sandusky believes he would be safe in the prison’s general population, Rominger said.
“He said to me he can understand where some of the concern comes from, but he’s not happy being stuck in a cell 23 hours a day,” Rominger said.
SCI-Greene, where most of Pennsylvania’s death row inmates are kept, houses 1,800 prisoners and employs a staff of 700.