(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) — The withering allegations of sex abuse from eight accusers in the Jerry Sandusky trial were largely ignored Monday by Sandusky’s legal team as the defense began telling their side of the story.
The defense’s first day of testimony ended abruptly only an hour into the afternoon session as Judge John Cleland told the jury that “technical issues” with some of the witnesses would keep court adjourned until Tuesday morning. But he laid out a schedule that indicates Sandusky will offer few witnesses on his behalf.
Cleland would not explain what the problems with the witnesses were Monday, but said only that he expected the defense to rest Wednesday. He said the court would hear a rebuttal from the prosecution on Wednesday afternoon, and told the attorneys to be ready to give closing arguments on Thursday.
The judge informed the jury that they will be sequestered once they begin deliberations.
Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 counts of molesting 10 boys. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the charges.
Sandusky’s lawyers called four people to the stand and all were essentially character witnesses.
Former youth counselor Brett Witmer was called to the stand to counter some of the claims from the man known as Victim 4, who testified that Sandusky took a special interest in him, wrote him letters and made him sign contracts, stalked him from school begging the boy to talk to him, and sexually abused him.
Under questioning by defense attorney Joseph Amendola, Witmer said that he worked with Victim 4 at a youth group program the boy was in during elementary and middle school. He said that the boy told him Sandusky was a big part of his life, and he often saw the two interacting.
“Jerry certainly seemed to be an important part of (Victim 4’s) life….He seemed like he had a genuine interest in making sure the kid was moving in the right direction,” Witmer, now an elementary school teacher, testified.
He relayed an incident in which Sandusky showed up at the youth center to pick up Victim 4, and the boy did not show. Sandusky and the counselor chatted on the steps of the youth center.
“He said, ‘You’ve got to understand when you’re dealing with kids coming from difficult situations sometimes they’re not going to want to meet with you, go with you, and other times they’re going to want to do fun things and play. You just always have to be there for them,'” Witmer recalled. “Even as I do social work now I keep that in mind.”
David Pasquinelli, a former board member for the Second Mile, the charity Sandusky helped create, said that for two years he and Sandusky would take fundraising trips together and got to know each other well.
“I saw a mutual admiration between Second Mile youth, both boys and girls, with Jerry. I saw a lot of goofing around. Jerry had a very unique way, and many of us were inspired by this, how he could relate to youth of all ages and really get to their level and communicate,” Pasquinelli said.
In addition, two former Penn State coaches who worked with Sandusky, Richard Anderson and Booker Brooks, were called to testify about a locker room culture where showering with young boys was common. Sandusky is accused of using showers to molest young boys.
“Jerry had a great reputation. He had a wonderful reputation in the community, he was well thought of in every way,” Anderson said.
Before the defense began its case, the prosecution presented one last emotional witness.
The mother of Victim 9 testified through tears that she felt responsible for pushing her son to spend time with the coach because “he was Jerry Sandusky. He was an important guy.”
The woman said that she never asked her son, who testified last week that he was raped by Sandusky, what exactly happened to him in Sandusky’s basement during the sleepovers he said he had every weekend for nearly four years.
On Thursday, Victim 9, who is now 18, said that he was repeatedly forced to perform oral sex on Sandusky and be sodomized by Sandusky in the coach’s basement. The testimony followed seven other witnesses who said they were sexually abused by Sandusky.
The mother said that her son called her once from Sandusky’s house asking her to pick him up immediately because he was feeling sick. In his testimony Thursday, Victim 9 said he called his mom for help once when Sandusky was sexually abusing him, but did not tell his mother the reason for the call.
Victim 9’s mother testified that he suffered medical problems during ages 15, 16, and 17 when he had severe stomach problems and trouble going to the bathroom. She said he also never put his underwear into the laundry, always telling his mother that he had an accident and threw them out.
On Thursday, Amendola questioned Victim 9 about rectal bleeding and stains on his underwear. The boy said his mother never saw stains and that he “just dealt with it.”
The trial resumed Monday with a surprising statement from Judge John Cleland saying he had doubts about the strength of the prosecution’s case, but at this point in the trial is convinced that there is enough credible evidence that the charges should go to a jury. His comments were made while the jury was out of the courtroom.
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