Pa. judge: No new trial for Jerry Sandusky

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HARRISBURG – Jerry Sandusky lost a bid for a new trial Wednesday when a judge rejected his argument that his lawyers were not given enough time to prepare for the three-week proceeding that ended with a 45-count guilty verdict.


Judge John Cleland’s 27-page order said lawyers for the former Penn State assistant football coach conceded that their post-trial review turned up no material that would have changed their trial strategy.


“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.”


He also rejected post-sentencing motions regarding jury instructions, hearsay testimony and a comment by the prosecution during closing arguments that referred to the fact that Sandusky, who did not testify at trial, gave media interviews after he was arrested in November 2011.


Cleland said the prosecution’s closing was not presented in a way that “was either calculated to, or did, create in the jurors a fixed bias toward the defendant.”


Sandusky, a Washington native, also argued that charges should have been thrown out because they were not sufficiently specific, but Cleland said the lack of specific dates did not prevent Sandusky from pursuing an alibi defense.


“The defendant has simply argued the offenses did not happen,” Cleland said.


One of the jury instruction issues was whether Cleland should have talked to them about the amount of time it took for the victims to inform authorities that Sandusky had abused them.


“No one who has had the slightest experience with child sexual abuse or given a whit of thought to its dynamics could conclude that failure to make a prompt complaint, standing alone, is an accurate indicia of fabrication,” Cleland said.


Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence at State Correctional Institution in Greene County for sexual abuse of 10 boys, including violent attacks on the children inside Penn State athletics facilities.


Sandusky defense lawyer Norris Gelman said Wednesday that while he had not read the decision, Cleland’s ruling means an appeal will be filed to the mid-level Superior Court within the next 30 days.


The state attorney general’s office, which prosecuted Sandusky, declined to comment.


Also Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved a bill that aims to keep Penn State’s $60 million fine to the NCAA over the Sandusky scandal within the state.


The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican whose district includes State College, would require such fines of at least $10 million to be deposited into a state-administered account, and be spent on Pennsylvania programs that address childhood sexual abuse.


“It makes sense that it should stay here to benefit organizations and the children of the commonwealth,” said Corman, who also recently filed a lawsuit over the fine, an action currently pending in Commonwealth Court. He said the money “could do an extraordinary amount of good right here in Pennsylvania.”


Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, said the Legislature needed to act quickly.


“The victims were from Pennsylvania, the abuse was perpetrated in Pennsylvania, and the crimes were investigated and prosecuted by Pennsylvania authorities – not authorities from other states, the federal government or the NCAA,” Schwank said.


In response, the NCAA issued a statement saying it was monitoring the legislation, “including examining whether, if enacted, the proposed legislation would violate both the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions.”


It had previously said 25 percent of the annual grants would be reserved for Pennsylvania organizations.


Penn State agreed to the fine last summer as part of a deal that averted a potential shutdown of its football program by college sports’ governing body. The university has already made the first of five $12 million payments.


Gov. Tom Corbett has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA over the sanctions.


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