Posted: Tue, Jun. 19, 2012, 8:32 AM
By Jeff Gammage and Jeremy Roebuck
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
Updated: 12:02 p.m.
BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Defense lawyers slogged through nearly three hours worth of witnesses today, but made no headway in rebutting the central child-sexual abuse allegations against former Pennsylvania State University football coach Jerry Sandusky.
As for the former Penn State assistant football coach testifying in his own defense, his attorney, Joseph Amendola, said, “Stay tuned,” comparing the case to a soap opera, before the proceedings began.
In court, Amendola played the tape of an April 2011 interview between state police investigators and the now 28-year-old man known in court records as Victim 4.
During the trial, the defense has argued that some men who have accused Sandusky had added compelling, incriminating details to their statements after reading newspapers or meeting with police.
“Same thing. Same process. … It’s the way he operates,” one investigator was heard saying on the tape, describing to the alleged victim how Sandusky proceeded with other youths. Police also told the young man that at least one boy had been subjected to intercourse.
It was difficult to discern on the tape which officers were speaking at which time. The alleged victim’s attorney was also present.
The man described to the police the similarities in looks between two boys Sandusky is accused of molesting, and talked about stories that had appeared in the Harrisburg newspaper.
The man known as Victim 4, whose name is being withheld by the Inquirer, testified earlier in the trial that Sandusky molested him on the Penn State campus, at nearby hotels, and on trips with the university football team.
“There’s a pretty well-defined progression in how he operates, and still operates to some degree,” one police officer said on the tape, outlining the number of victims. “A lot of things you’ve told us is very similar to what we’ve heard from the others.”
Defense attorneys maintain the alleged victims were seeking money, potentially from filing civil suits in the future.
Today, Amendola called to the stand the lawyer who represents Victim 4, asking him about the importance of a guilty verdict to any future claims for damages.
“We haven’t even discussed the filing of a civil claim,” attorney Ben Andreozzi said on the stand.
But, he added, “there is a potential there could be a civil case,” and a finding of guilty in the criminal proceeding “could have impact.”
On cross-examination, he said that he has never told his client what to say about anything. He said the taped interview was extensive, and noted that the jury heard only a 16-minute clip.
At the time of the police interview, the attorney said, his conversations with his client had been brief.
“He viewed Jerry as a father figure to him, and it’s been extremely difficult for him.” During the taped interview, “he was shaking. He was clearly emotionally distraught about having to go in and speak to the authorities. … To this day he’s not comfortable talking about the details.”
Other witnesses this morning testified to Sandusky’s fine, law-abiding character this morning, including a woman who called one his alleged victims a known liar.
Megan Rash, 25, of Milesburg, an Army veteran, said the man known as Victim 4 was close friends with her brother, Ryan Dixon, who died in a motorcycle crash several years ago. They were always together, she said.
“He was a dishonest person and embellished stories,” Rash said of the now 28-year-old man, who testified that he was repeatedly molested by the former Pennsylvania State University football coach on campus, in nearby hotels and on trips.
She was among a morning-long parade of witnesses who testified to Sandusky’s caring behavior and good works, particularly with the Second Mile charity he founded in 1977.
“Our kids grew up together,” said Jack Willenbrock, of State College, the father of three children and nine grandchildren, now retired after 27 years as a professor of civil engineering at Penn State. His kids were always at the Sandusky home, playing with the Sandusky children, and both families attended St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in State College.
“Among our children, among our grandchildren, Jerry Sandusky is a father figure, and he’s also respected professionally,” Willenbrock said.
He said on cross-examination by prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III that he knew of the allegations against Sandusky, who is accused of having sexually abused 12 boys during a 15-year period.
“We’re Christian, and felt at the beginning when these allegations started, that we were not the ones to judge,” he said.