…please stop trying to make light of the seriousness of the situation your client, Jerry Sandusky, is in. This is not a game, in spite of your calling it “the game of his life.” Don’t reference the 1986 nailbiter between Penn State and Miami, either. We know that Sandusky was the “dean of Linebacker U.” That’s not going to save him here. College football analogies — even those involving Penn State football — are not going to get this guy off the hook that easily.
Oh, and another thing, Amendola, don’t compare Sandusky’s behavior to that of a typical Italian family, where “everybody hugged and kissed each other.” I grew up in the same type of family, Amendola…there was indeed hugging and kissing. There were no adults showering with children…there was no snapping of towels with naked bodies…there were no naked bear hugs…there were no grown men putting their hands on boys’ knees. Oh, and they didn’t roll around wrestling or “cracking backs,” either. So, not only did you diminish the seriousness of child sex abuse, you compared it to being in an Italian family. Thanks for that.
But using football metaphors is downright insulting and offensive. Stop using Penn State and the Nittany Lions to try to pull some voo doo witchcraft trickery to make us doubt the veracity of the alleged (yeah yeah, I’m using “alleged,” since it’s yet to be proven) victims and witnesses. The days where the public is chanting “We are…Penn State” and holding vigils outside the home of Coach Joe Paterno? They’re over. That photo above? Not many are looking at it and thinking wistfully about the legacy of Penn State football…they’re looking at Jerry Sandusky and thinking one thing: Monster. No, really, that’s pretty much the size of it.
This morning, the much-hyped and eagerly awaited preliminary hearing was scheduled for 8:30. Streets were closed in Bellefonte, the media was out in full force, police were everywhere, and the lucky lottery winners were waiting to watch the spectacle unfold. Three minutes later, it had unfolded and folded back up and was headed out the door.
Whoa, wait. Lottery winners?
Yes, lottery winners. The courtroom seats approximately 200 people. With 90 seats reserved for the press (with local press getting first preference), another 90 seats were reserved for the general public. The judge, not wanting the preliminary hearing to turn into a camp-out not unlike Best Buy on Black Friday, decided to allow interested individuals a chance to “win” a ticket for one of those seats. Last week, the court allowed the general public to enter their name in the lottery for a courtroom seat.
Did I try to get a seat?
You bet your a$$ I did. I need to see this, up close and personal. I need to know what we’re dealing with. I wanted to watch the interactions, the mannerisms, the body language, the reactions of Sandusky and his attorney. I’m no behavioral scientist but I think I can pick up on the nuances of human behavior. I’ve seen enough SVU, for crying out loud. (OK, OK, that’s not the only knowledge I have.)
I wasn’t happy that my name wasn’t drawn as one of the “lucky” 90 to get a seat. But it wasn’t the end of the world. However, had I won and gone to the Centre County Courthouse, I would have hit the roof had Amendola announced he was waiving the preliminary hearing at the preliminary hearing.
As Sandusky left the courthouse, he spoke briefly (and it sure sounded as though he had rehearsed this statement, given what we know about how well he speaks when put on the spot.) to the reporters gathered outside, “Wе fully intend tο рυt together thе best possible defense thаt wе саn dο, tο stay thе course, tο fight fοr four quarters. Wе want thе opportunity tο present ουr side.”
“Fight for four quarters.” That’s cute. Like it’s…a game. Yes, fighting 52 — fifty-freakin’-two — counts of child molestation is just like a football game where it’s all “on the line.” How…clever!
That’s why I was a little taken back when Sandusky and his attorney Joe Amendola took the first opportunity to “present [their] side” and…waived the opportunity. This is what he had to say following the hearing that never was:
“Today’s waiver has nothing to do with conceding anything. There have been no plea negotiations. There will be no plea negotiations. This is a fight to the death. This is the fight of Jerry Sandusky’s life. This goes beyond the Penn State-Miami in ’86. This is the game of his life.”
“The game of his life.” What a clever metaphor! Amendola then spoke to the throng of media for an hour or so. Seriously. Who talks that long, other than the president? This guy, apparently. He also made this clever quote (that he certainly rehearsed…but didn’t research, sadly):
“Anyone who is naive enough to think for a minute that Tim Curley, Joe Paterno and Gary Schultz and, for that matter, Graham Spanier, the university president, were told by Mike McQueary that he observed Jerry Sandusky having anal sex with a 10-year-old-looking kid in a shower at Penn State or Penn State property and their response was to simply tell Jerry Sandusky that, ‘Don’t go in the shower room any more with kids.’ I suggest you dial 1-800-REALITY. Because that makes absolutely no sense.”
Aw, shucks, Joe. If you had a law clerk (which you most likely do not) or thought things through rationally (which you most likely never do), you would have double-checked that 1-800-REALITY number. Cause, um, if ya had…you would have realized it’s the number to a gay sex chat line. Oopsy.
Following that, two ESPN analysts interviewed Amendola…and, boy was that a mistake. At that point, Amendola name-dropped Matt Millen (former Nittany Lion and current ESPN analyst) at least twice, which Millen must be loving. Amendola implied that Millen is supporting Sandusky which he is no way is. He’s actually been pretty vocal — and, on one occasion, broke down in tears on the air — about this scandal.
Let me tell you about a preliminary hearing. Both the defense and the prosecution get an opportunity to present evidence and question witnesses. This is what Amendola has been yelling from the rooftops since he was hired to defend Sandusky. All they needed to prove Sandusky’s innocence was a chance to question these witnesses, most specifically assistant coach (and most damning witness to the alleged crimes) Mike McQueary. And when they got that chance, Amendola said, in essence, “No thanks.”
I should mention that there is a lot of talk about the testimony of one Dr. Jonathan Dranov, who was present at the McQueary home that fateful 2002 night when McQueary claims to have seen Sandusky raping a child in the locker room shower. Dranov has reportedly stated that he asked McQueary three times if he saw anything sexual and McQueary said no. Let’s think this through. Did McQueary actually observe the act of sodomy? Or did he see all the hallmarks of it and put two and two together? So, according to Dranov, McQueary heard something that sounded like sex (something like skin slapping against skin) and saw a young boy peer around the corner of the shower, and then Sandusky put his arm around his waist and pulled him back out of view. Now…if you witnessed that, what would you believe in your mind that you just witnessed? Yeah, me too.
But, what McQueary told investigators and the grand jury is decidedly different. He said that he witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a boy who was standing with his hands against the shower wall. This makes for a very interesting development. Who do we believe? What would possibly be McQueary’s motive to make this up? Surely he knew that he would look like a coward and he would be vilified in the press (and general public) for keeping quiet and not acting when he supposedly saw a young boy being sodomized. He had to know that the fallout for Penn State would be huge…not that he could have predicted the ensuing scandal would have been of such magnitude (who could?). I just can’t put my finger on what could be in this for McQueary — other than his entire life and career being ruined. So, the motive? I can’t think of any.
Granted, Tuesday’s preliminary hearing was basically a formality, because all the prosecution needed to do was present a “prima facie” case — which means the prosecution must show some evidence that each alleged crime occurred and that the defendant may be the individual who committed said crimes. What it also means is that eight alleged victims had to get themselves emotionally and mentally ready to face the man they accuse of committing horrendous crimes and exploiting them as vulnerable children, and then be told, “Sorry, not today.”
Amendola knew he was going to waive this hearing ahead of time and yet he subjected them to this mental anguish for no reason. Unless, of course, you count his need to be in the media spotlight. After all, if he waived the hearing, then the press wouldn’t be lined up outside the courthouse. And he wouldn’t be able to stand at a fancy little podium, fielding questions from all these folks…
Sandusky has an arraignment scheduled for early January (on the additional sex abuse charges) and a pre-trial hearing in March, both of which Amendola waived today. In case you missed it, Sandusky was arrested on December 8, on 12 more counts of sexual abuse of children, following a grand jury indictment based on the testimony of two additional alleged victims. He spent the night in jail, after his bail was increased to $250,000 cash. Upon his release, he was placed on house arrest. One of those new alleged victims, it is worth noting, claims to have “screamed” for help while being raped in the basement of the Sandusky home. That individual said he knew Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, was at home but she never came to his aid.
Following Sandusky’s arrest, Amendola said that the alleged victims could be motivated by a financial payout, via civil suits, several of which have already been filed. “I can think of nine million reasons in regard to the Second Mile, and obviously Penn State has unlimited resources. Why do people lie?” During today’s press conference, as it were, Amendola suggested that the victims were acting in collusion. That might be a defense tactic in the courtroom, but when you’re trying to influence public opinion, calling all the alleged victims liars and schemers might not be the best strategy.
While public interest in this case is tremendous, it’s unlikely that the judge will budge from his position on having it recorded in any manner. Until the day prior to the preliminary hearing, he had prohibited any live reporting (tweeting, blogging, etc.) from the courtroom. That was lifted although there was still a ban on any type of recording. So, don’t plan for the “trial of the decade” being broadcast daily on Court TV. Not gonna happen.