SAN DIEGO – June 23, 2012 – After high profile acquittals of defendants as recent as Casey Anthony and as long ago as O.J. Simpson, observers hold their breath while awaiting verdicts in cases like the one against accused child predator Jerry Sandusky. Even when the evidence seems unassailable and guilt seems evident, we have learned not to anticipate the outcome.
Friday night, we could all exhale again. Justice was served. Justice is still possible.
At approximately 10 p.m. Eastern Time, the sequestered jury returned its verdict after 21 careful hours of deliberation. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 out of 48 charges against him, involving every single one of the ten victims named in the case that he was accused of abusing over the course of 15 years.
Sandusky’s bail was immediately revoked, and within minutes of the verdict being rendered, he was led down the courthouse steps in handcuffs, placed in the back of a police patrol car where he was taken immediately to the county jail. He looked straight ahead, and did not speak or acknowledge anyone. One woman was heard to scream, “Rot in Hell!” before Sandusky was driven away.
Given the magnitude of the verdict, and Sandusky’s age, 68, he will spend the rest of his life in prison. The counts could carry a sentence of over 400 years. His sentencing should take place in about three months.
Scores of observers standing on the courthouse steps cheered as the news filtered outside. News media were not permitted to report any of the verdict from inside the courtroom until the judge adjourned the court proceedings. News organizations were warned by the judge he would sanction any reporter and his or her employer for violating the order.
Following the verdict, Sandusky’s lawyer Joe Amendola spoke to the media in a recklessly candid way. He praised the work of the jury, and called Judge Cleland “marvelous” as well as “fair, firm, and reasonable” and that he would welcome the chance to appear in his courtroom again. He also praised prosecutors for their professionalism.
A defense attorney planning to file an appeal would not be expected to make these kinds of remarks. This was a real headscratcher performance. But many of Amendola’s actions throughout this case have been headscratcher moments. It will not be a surprise to see an appeal based on ineffective counsel to be filed.
Earlier in the evening, Amendola said he would be shocked and “die of a heart attack” if the former Penn State assistant football coach were acquitted on all counts in his child sex abuse trial.
Jurors began deliberating the case Thursday and talked all day Friday. Despite being promised in the opening arguments that Sandusky would take the stand and they would hear from him directly, he never testified in his own defense. Defense attorney Amendola confirmed what legal experts had speculated, that attorneys had to change their approach when Matt Sandusky, the 33-year-old adopted son of Jerry Sandusky, revealed his father had abused him and was prepared to testify on behalf of the prosecution.
Amendola said prosecutors informed him about Matt Sandusky’s allegations. They said he would not be called to testify in the case in chief, but would be prepared to testify as a rebuttal witness if Sandusky took the stand, and that other witnesses would testify in support of Matt Sandusky’s claims. Amendola said it set up “a dilemma,” that Sandusky still wanted to testify and denied any “improper” contact with his son. “As a strategy, to put him on the stand and set up him would destroy any chances of acquittal,” said Amendola.
Sandusky repeatedly denied the allegations against him. He was portrayed during the trial as the victim of a finger-pointing conspiracy motivated by the potential of a big civil court payoff for the victims.
Attorney General Linda Kelly spoke next, flanked by prosecutors and investigators who worked on the case. She spoke about the moral and ethical imperative to continue efforts to eradicate child sexual abuse, and the need to “lift the veil of secrecy.”
“We can’t let the national focus that the case to child sex abuse fade after the cameras are turned off,” said Kelly. She urged law enforcement agencies across the country to take allegations of child sexual abuse seriously and to investigate them thoroughly, and urged families and communities to be vigilant and to report any suspicions of abuse.
This verdict will no doubt have an impact on a wide array of civil and criminal investigations still ongoing. Civil lawsuits are likely against Sandusky personally, Penn State University, and Sandusky’s Second Mile charity.
Sandusky could face additional criminal charges involving accusers who have come forward after his arrest in November 2011. The Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office says it has an “active and ongoing” investigation of Sandusky. Federal prosecutors subpoenaed Penn State for university computer records and other information in February.
With the exception now of his sentencing hearing, Jerry Sandusky will never see the outside of a prison again. We can now hope the 10 victims named in this case locked up in an emotional and psychological prison due to the abuse at the hands of Sandusky consider themselves freed and can continue their journey toward recovery thanks in part to this verdict.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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