BELLEFONTE - Defense arguments calling for the dismissal of child sexual abuse charges against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky were shelved Thursday because of a continuing statewide grand jury investigation into the case.
Sandusky's attorney, Joseph L. Amendola of Centre County, and the lead prosecutor for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Joseph McGettigan, would not reveal the specifics, but Amendola said the grand jury is looking at other aspects of the case that don't necessarily involve Sandusky directly.
The former defensive coordinator for Penn State retired from the university in 1999. During his coaching days, he started The Second Mile, an organization to address the needs of at-risk children.
He continued to lead The Second Mile until two years ago, and many of the criminal charges against him indicate that all of the known victims of Sandusky's alleged abuse were Second Mile clients.
"The whole process is complex and in limbo," said Senior Judge John M. Cleland from McKean County, who was assigned by the state court administrator's office to preside over the trial.
He and the attorneys for the defense and prosecution concluded that there was no point to hear legal arguments by Amendola asking for dismissal of most, if not all, of the 52 charges in view of the continuing investigation.
Sandusky is charged with the sexual offenses against 10 children, including one victim who has yet to be identified, but who was allegedly seen by former Penn State coach Mike McQueary taking a shower with Sandusky in the spring of 2002.
McQueary testified at a hearing in December that Sandusky had his arms around the boy, "And it appeared upon looking the second time, I said to myself, 'They're in a very sexual oriented - a very sexual position.'"
Amendola wants sexual offenses surrounding that alleged attack dismissed because "his [McQueary's] testimony did not establish sufficient evidence to support these charges being submitted to the jury at trial."
In addition, Amendola is contending that Gary Schultz, former vice president at the university, and Timothy Curley, the athletic director, are the only witnesses who can help Sandusky provide a defense to the charges in the 2002 case. He added on Thursday that Curley and Schultz, both charged with perjury and failure to report a sexual offense, will not testify on Sandusky's behalf.
Their lawyers have confirmed that if Amendola calls them to testify for Sandusky, they will refuse, based on their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
For these reasons Amendola has asked that the judge consider severing the 2002 case from the other cases against Sandusky.
Amendola is also complaining that the inability of the prosecution to provide exact times and locations for many of the sexual offenses is a violation of Sandusky's right to a fair trial.
He said Thursday he is temporarily withdrawing the requests to dismiss the charges.
Cleland and the attorneys were in court for about 15 minutes and then adjourned behind closed doors to discuss how the case will proceed.
Despite the problems that are cropping up, Cleland still wants the Sandusky trial to begin with jury selection on June 5.
"At some point we have to set a date and say, 'This is what we will present at trial,'" Cleland stated to the prosecution.
In his meeting with the attorneys, he suggested that Amendola refile his motions to dismiss by May 16. This gives the grand jury time to complete its deliberations on the Sandusky matter while allowing the case to move forward to trial in June, the attorneys stated.
Other issues mentioned Thursday included Amendola's admission that the charges against Sandusky were filed within Pennsylvania's statute of limitations. In his pretrial motion, he charged that the statute of limitations had run out on seven of the victims.
Amendola said he would probably hold that claim for another time, possibly an issue for an appeal, if one is needed.
Amendola said he will let the judge decide if individual questioning of prospective jurors should be part of the selection process. He agreed to abide by the judge's decision to sequester jurors during the trial.
He also agreed that a search warrant of Sandusky's home, executed on June 21, met legal requirements. His pretrial motions had challenged the search warrant.
Amendola also withdrew his objection to a statement Sandusky gave to investigator Ronald Schreffler of the Penn State Police Department concerning a 1998 incident involving Sandusky showering with a child in Holuba Hall at Penn State following a workout.
Speaking to the news media after the hearing, Amendola said police found nothing to incriminate Sandusky in their search of Sandusky's College Township house, and said the statement Sandusky gave to Schreffler is "exculpatory," meaning it tends to favor Sandusky's claim of innocence.
"We are still challenging all the charges. ... We are still challenging all the issues," said Amendola.
When McGettigan spoke to the news media, he lashed back at defense claims that the prosecution wasn't providing enough specifics, noting Amendola and Sandusky waived the preliminary hearing in the case in November when they had a chance to hear the specifics.
He said the defense just didn't "want to hear the litany of perversions" by Sandusky spread throughout the public.
"We are ready to proceed on all the charges," said McGettigan.
He said the waiver of a preliminary hearing was an admission there was enough evidence to go to trial.
"The Commonwealth waits for the day the victims of Jerry Sandusky can come forward [to tell their stories]," McGettigan said.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.