By Mark Scolforo
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The judge overseeing former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse case on Thursday delayed the start of the trial by three weeks to early June, and prosecutors filed a lengthy court document that said the case should not be dismissed.
Judge John Cleland said the additional time was needed “to accommodate various logistical contingencies that have arisen,” and the attorney general’s office supported the postponement.
The prosecution’s 21-page answer to a catch-all pretrial motion that Sandusky’s lawyer submitted a week ago said the commonwealth had “broad latitude” to establish the dates of allegations in child sexual abuse cases. Sandusky has asked for more specifics about when the alleged crimes occurred.
“Defendant cannot exploit the appalling breadth of his own criminal conduct by claiming it encompasses so long a period as to hamper his defense,” wrote chief deputy attorney general Frank Fina.
The 68-year-old retired defensive coordinator faces 52 counts involving 10 alleged victims over 15 years.
He remains confined to his home to await trial. Prosecutors have accused him of engaging in a range of illegal behavior with the boys, including sexual assaults, allegations he denies.
Fina disputed Sandusky’s argument that witness Mike McQueary will not be able to prove the charges involving a young boy allegedly seen by McQueary being sexually abused by Sandusky in the Penn State showers in 2002.
“The defense appears to argue that an eyewitness who sees an adult man having sex with a child cannot provide sufficient evidence of the conduct of crimes,” Fina wrote. “It is noteworthy that the defense provides no legal support for such a specious assertion.”
Cleland said a hearing remains scheduled for April 5 in Bellefonte to argue over the pretrial issues.
Fina wrote that the prosecution agreed with Sandusky’s request to have prospective jurors questioned individually, and to sequester them at trial. In Sandusky’s omnibus pretrial motion last week, defense lawyer Joe Amendola argued some allegations were not sufficiently specific, others lacked evidence and the statute of limitations may have run in some cases.
Messages seeking comment on the prosecution’s filing were left for Amendola on Thursday evening.
Fina noted that Sandusky waived a preliminary hearing that would have allowed him to test some of the evidence against him.
“He cannot now be heard to complain the information is insufficient, having conceded the ability of the commonwealth to prove each count if submitted to a fact-finder,” Fina wrote.
Fina told Cleland that prosecutors expect to disclose additional information to the defense as the investigation continues. He asked the judge to allow Amendola to amend the omnibus pretrial motion two weeks after that additional information is received.
The prosecution filing said a search of Sandusky’s home in June was authorized by a valid warrant, and that investigators legally intercepted conversations between Sandusky and two alleged victims, identified as Victim 1 and Victim 9 in court records. They include a seven-minute conversation with Victim 1 in June 2009, and a conversation with Victim 9 about four days after Sandusky was arrested in early November.
“It is denied that the interceptions were in any way illegal or improper,” Fina said. “It is absolutely admitted that the defendant ‘was unaware of and did not consent to the interceptions.’”