BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (CNN) — Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach charged with child rape, may take the stand in his trial, his defense attorney suggested Monday, June 11th in his opening statements.
Joe Amendola told jurors that Sandusky routinely “got showers with kids” after working out, and that he would say so later.
Sandusky, 68, has been under house arrest since being charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of at least 15 years. Prosecutors allege that he met some of his accusers through Second Mile, a charity he created for underprivileged children. He has pleaded not guilty.
Sandusky has always maintained his innocence, Amendola said, saying his client’s alleged victims had changed their stories and were questioned until authorities received the answers they wanted.
“A lot of people lied,” Amendola said. Some of the alleged victims have civil attorneys, he noted, calling that unusual. Others, he said, have a financial interest in the case.
However, he said Mike McQueary — a former graduate student who claims to have seen what appeared to be Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a shower in Penn State’s athletic facilities in 2002 — did not necessarily lie. McQueary has said he assumed sex was occurring even though he did not see the actual act, Amendola said.
Tom Kline, an attorney for Victim 5, told reporters afterward his client had no financial interest and “never sought this out,” but considers it “an obligation of citizenship” to testify.
“I would expect a serial story of serial predatory acts as shown by the prosecution,” Kline said.
Amendola told jurors some former Second Mile children will testify that Sandusky affected their lives in a positive way.
And he questioned the behavior of some alleged victims. One went to a football game with him before Sandusky’s arrest, he said; another, identified only as Victim 4, brought his girlfriend and baby over to meet Sandusky. “It looked like he was bringing his family to meet his father,” Amendola said.
“One of the keys to this case, one of the keys to your perception … is to wait until all the evidence is in,” he told jurors. “Some of it will be graphic … it’s going to be awful. But that doesn’t make it true.”
Sandusky suffers from a psychological condition that may explain some of his behavior, including letters written to one of his alleged victims, defense attorneys said in a motion filed Monday.
The motion seeks to keep out testimony involving prosecutors’ allegations that Sandusky exhibited “grooming behavior,” including letters written by Sandusky to Victim 4.
But if the testimony and letters are allowed, attorneys said they intend to offer expert testimony from a psychologist, who “will explain that the words, tones, requests and statements made in the letter are consistent with a person who suffers from a Histrionic Personality Disorder,” according to documents.
A source familiar with the case told CNN last week that letters written by Sandusky to Victim 4 could be described as love letters.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Histrionic Personality Disorder is a condition in which “people act in a very emotional and dramatic way that draws attention to themselves.”
“The goal of a person suffering from this disorder in writing those letters would not necessarily to groom or sexually consummate a relationship in a criminal manner, but rather to satisfy the needs of a psyche belabored by the needs of such a disorder,” the motion says.
Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan spoke to jurors before Amendola, telling them, “You’ll hear about systematic behavior by a serial predator,” he told jurors. “These were experiences that took place not over days, not over weeks, not over months … but over years.”
As McGettigan spoke Monday, childhood pictures of eight of the 10 alleged victims were shown on a projector screen, and the alleged victims were identified by their first names.
McGettigan described to the jury the extent of each victim’s contact with Sandusky. Victim 4, received “a multitude of gifts” from Sandusky and accompanied him on trips to the Alamo Bowl and the Outback Bowl, the prosecutor said.
Feelings of humiliation, shame and fear, led to “years of silence” on the part of accusers, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor reminded jurors that Sandusky, not Second Mile or Penn State, was on trial. But, he said, Second Mile represented “the perfect environment for a serial predator.”
McGettigan’s opening statement followed about 20 minutes of jury instructions from Judge John Cleland. “You are the conscience of the community,” he told the panel.
In interviews after his arrest, Sandusky acknowledged showering and “horsing around” with boys but denied being sexually attracted to them. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
McGettigan referred to those interviews during his opening statement, saying, “Deny what you can … and make an excuse.”
A jury of five men and seven women, along with four alternates, was selected last week. Half of the 16 jurors and alternates have ties to Penn State, including one retired professor and one current professor, three graduates, two employees and one current student, showing the prominence of the university in the local community.
Authorities allege that Sandusky abused some of the boys on the Penn State campus. The case has shaken the school, raised questions about its response to the allegations and drawn criticism from those who claim Penn State put its reputation ahead of protecting potential child victims.
University President Graham Spanier and iconic head football coach Joe Paterno lost their jobs soon after Sandusky’s arrest amid criticism they did not adequately handle the matter when allegations involving Sandusky arose years earlier. Paterno died of complications from lung cancer in January.
McQueary, considered to be a key witness, said he alerted Paterno in 2002 that he’d seen what appeared to be Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy, an allegation that authorities didn’t learn of until years later.
Paterno apparently told the university’s athletic director, Tim Curley, but no one notified police. Curley and Gary Schultz, Penn State’s senior vice president for finance and business, are now facing felony charges of perjury and failing to report the allegations to authorities.
Prosecutors said later that the McQueary incident took place about a year earlier than what was originally alleged, causing defense attorneys for Curley and Schultz to argue that one of the charges should now be dropped. Both of them have pleaded not guilty, and their attorneys have said that prosecutors “charged this case before (they) knew the facts.”
On Monday, defense attorneys requested that the grand jury testimony of Curley, Schultz and Spanier be admitted into evidence, saying they anticipate the three would invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called to testify.
The defense also asked that if prosecutors attempt to enter portions of Sandusky’s autobiography, “Touched,” into evidence, that the entire text be admitted. Defense attorneys said they believe excerpts or “select snippets” may be used by prosecutors to mischaracterize Sandusky’s “Motivations, purposes and actions, and attempt to use those excerpts to prove actions in conformity with their theories of how he propagated the alleged abuse.”
The Sandusky trial is expected to last about three weeks.
Prosecutors plan to call more than 50 witnesses, and the defense plans to call about 100. Witnesses during the trial are expected to include Jay and Sue Paterno, coach Joe Paterno’s son and widow, among others. Defense attorneys have said their list will also include seven Sandusky family members.
Several of Sandusky’s alleged victims asked to have their identities protected during the trial. But Cleland ruled against that request, saying “courts are not customarily in the business of withholding information.”
However, the judge noted, “It is also to be hoped that various news organizations that will report on the trial will use what has become their professional custom to protect the privacy of alleged victims.”
CNN generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
Cleland also told members of the jury pool that jurors in the case will not be sequestered, saying he will trust them not to read newspapers or follow the case online.
“It’s important nobody in the world will know as much about this trial as the people sitting in that jury box,” he said last week.