By Mark Scolforo
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A judge rejected requests by prosecutors that jurors be brought in from outside the State College area to hear the child sex-abuse case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Judge John Cleland on Monday also denied prosecutors’ requests that Sandusky remain indoors while on home confinement before his trial and ruled that Sandusky can have supervised contact with most of his grandchildren, saying there was no evidence that the children’s parents wouldn’t be able to keep them safe.
Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts for what prosecutors say was the sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period. He has denied the allegations.
Cleland has tentatively scheduled the trial to start in mid-May. He said jury selection will be a challenge, given the pretrial publicity and the special role that Penn State plays in the Centre County community.
“If, after a reasonable attempt it is apparent that a jury cannot be selected within a reasonable time, then I will reconsider this ruling,” Cleland wrote.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said the judge’s orders were being reviewed.
Sandusky’s lawyer issued a statement saying Sandusky, his wife and their family were “relieved by and pleased with” the visitation ruling, which pertains to all but three of his 11 grandchildren, ages 2 to 14. These three children are involved in a custody case, and Cleland deferred decisions about any visits from them to the judge handling that matter.
Prosecutors made the bail modification request asking that Sandusky remain indoor, after hearing concerns by neighbors about the safety of children, particularly at an elementary school behind Sandusky’s house.
“The commonwealth failed to present any evidence whatsoever that the defendant presents a clearly defined threat to any student at the adjoining elementary school simply by being on his deck,” Cleland wrote. “No evidence was presented that at any time the defendant made any effort to contact any of the children by signaling or calling to them, or that he made any gestures directed toward them, or that he acted in any inappropriate way whatsoever.”
Cleland encouraged state prosecutors to work with the judge who supervised a grand jury that investigated Sandusky to figure out how to release grand jury transcripts to Sandusky’s lawyers “on a schedule which balances the appropriate interests of maintaining the secrecy of the grand jury while still assuring the trial can proceed without unnecessary disruption.”
Cleland also ordered prosecutors to tell defense lawyers where and when the purported crimes occurred and how old the children were at the time. He addressed disputes between the sides over material that should be turned over to the defense by directing prosecutors to put their objections in writing by Feb. 20. Sandusky’s lawyers will be allowed to reply by Feb. 27.
Sandusky lost a request to force prosecutors to disclose the names, addresses and birth dates of witnesses.
“While we are happy with the outcome of Friday’s hearings, we realize, nevertheless, a number of difficult legal battles lie ahead of us,” said his lawyer, Joe Amendola, in a statement. “We will continue to work very hard in preparing Jerry’s defense with the ultimate goal of obtaining Jerry’s acquittal.”
The 68-year-old Sandusky was also granted the right to see adult visitors. Under the court’s latest order, he will list up to 12 adults he would like to be able to see, subject to approval by the county officials overseeing his home confinement. His visits will be limited to a total of two hours, three times a week.
Also Monday, a Penn State administrator asked a judge to throw out charges that he lied to the grand jury investigating Sandusky and that he failed to properly report suspected child abuse.
Tim Curley filed motions in Dauphin County Court that argued the death of football coach Joe Paterno last month left prosecutors without a required second witness to support the perjury charge.
He said allegations that he didn’t report suspected abuse in 2002 were filed under a revision of the law that was passed five years later and that the statute of limitations has expired. The attorney general’s office said it, too, was under review.
The 57-year-old Curley is on leave as athletic director as he awaits trial. Former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz, who faces the same charges as Curley, has not filed similar motions. Both have denied the allegations.