Sandusky moves for new trial after sex abuse conviction
Jerry Sandusky (Pennsylania Attorney General's Office)
(CNN) — Lawyers for former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted on multiple counts of child sex abuse, filed a motion for a new trial Thursday.
Judge John Cleland, who presided over Sandusky’s conviction and sentencing, heard arguments Thursday at Centre County court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, but did not rule immediately. A motion for a new trial asks the trial court to re-examine issues it already ruled on in an earlier judgment.
In October, Cleland sentenced Sandusky to no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison for abusing 10 boys during a 15-year period. Sandusky, 68, had faced the possibility of up to a 400-year prison term.
Sandusky’s lawyers have argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him, and that the court didn’t allow them enough time to prepare for trial after the prosecution flooded them with documentation.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola testified Thursday that he had been unprepared for the trial. But he also conceded that after reviewing the documents post-trial, he didn’t see anything he would have done differently in defending Sandusky.
Sandusky’s legal team has also argued that certain counts against their client were too broad and should therefore have been dismissed.
Cleland could easily rule that evidence presented at the criminal trial was so overwhelming — the victims’ testimony, for instance — that the defense’s concerns would not have changed the end result, said Karl Rominger, one of Sandusky’s lawyers.
The eight victims who testified, now young men, said that they were boys when Sandusky forced them to engage in sexual acts with him. The acts occurred, they said, in showers in Penn State’s athletic facilities; hotel rooms; and the basement of Sandusky’s home, among other places.
Testimony was often emotional and graphic. Jurors convicted Sandusky on 45 out of 48 sexual abuse counts.
This first attempt to overturn the conviction based on ineffective counsel, a common tactic, will be tough, his lawyers acknowledged before the hearing.
They said that if the court rejects it, they may launch appeals based on other arguments.
“If you win on one of the appeal issues, everything probably falls,” Amendola has said. “All we have to do is convince an appellate court that one of the issues we will raise is worthy of a reversal.”
Amendola and Rominger have also filed a motion to have Sandusky’s sentence reconsidered.
The lawyers had attempted to withdraw from the case before the trial, telling Cleland the day before jury selection began that they did not feel adequately prepared and that it would be “unethical” for them to move forward. Cleland denied their request.
The sex abuse scandal led to the firing of head football coach Joe Paterno and the ouster of the university’s longtime president, Graham Spanier. Paterno died in 2012 of lung cancer.
The NCAA slapped Penn State with fines and sanctions over the case, but Pennsylvania’s governor announced a lawsuit last week against the collegiate athletic board, saying Sandusky’s actions were a criminal matter and not a violation of NCAA rules.
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