(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) — Jerry Sandusky’s attorney suggested on Tuesday that state troopers “tainted” the sex abuse investigation into the former Penn State coach by prodding potential victims to say that sexual acts occurred between Sandusky and them and encouraged their confessions by saying that other young men had already described the abuse in detail.
Sandusky is in the final days of his defense. He is charged with 51 counts of sex abuse of 10 boys.
The jury of seven women and five men is expected to get the case later this week and Sandusky, 68, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
Joseph Amendola, Sandusky’s lead defense attorney, asked two Pennsylvania state troopers whether the potential victims they interviewed at the beginning of the investigation ever said that nothing happened between them and Sandusky, and whether they later changed their stories to say that sexual abuse had occurred. Both investigators agreed that the men had changed their stories during the course of several interviews.
Amendola had shown while questioning accusers last week that many of their stories progressed throughout the investigation as they initially said that nothing sexual occurred with Sandusky, and later, upon further questioning from prosecutors, said that Sandusky had abused them.
Amendola suggested that Trooper Scott Rossman and Corporal Joseph Leiter had elicited some of those changes by encouraging the men to say they were abused.
He asked whether the investigators remembered telling Victim 4 during an early interview that “nine other kids” had come forward and some of them had told investigators that oral sex and rape had occurred, according to a transcript from the interview.
Rossman and Leiter denied that they shared with their interviewees specific information about the number of other accusers or sex acts that alleged victims had told them, but Amendola then read a transcript from an interview with the man being identified as Victim 4 aloud in the courtroom.
In the interview, Leiter said, “I want to let you know that you are not the only victim… I think there were nine. We interviewed about nine. …You are repeating word for word pretty much that others told us. We know there is a well-defined progression in the way he operated. Progression goes on for an extended period of time… oral sex…”
Leiter later agreed that he had described the acts recorded in the transcript.
Both men said under cross-examination by prosecutor Joseph McGettigan that they had not told alleged victims what to say or to embellish their stories. They told the prosecutor that it was difficult to get many of the alleged victims to discuss the abuse. One, Leiter said, “curled up in the fetal position at the end of his couch” during questioning.
Amendola also called to the witness stand a 25-year-old woman named Megan Rash, whose older brother, Ryan Dixon, was good friends with Victim 4 while growing up.
Rash testified that Victim 4 had a reputation for “dishonesty and embellishing stories.” Dixon, whose name has been mentioned by accusers occasionally during the trial, died in 2008. Rash said that she and her brother were involved in the Second Mile, but Dixon was never taken on special outings with Sandusky.
The investigators were the first strong witnesses to be called for the defense, which has otherwise called a string of character witnesses who have testified that Sandusky had a “wonderful” and “amazing” reputation in the community.
The character witnesses have included neighbors, friends, former players on Sandusky’s college football team, and former members of the Second Mile who had spent time at Sandusky’s house.
Amendola is still expected to call Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, to testify about what she saw during their marriage together.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Megan McNulty, Deseret News
Eric Bradner, CNN
Jason Hanna and Joe Sutton, CNN
Aria Hangyu Chen, Special to CNN