Closing arguments set for Sandusky abuse trial

Associated Press
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., Thursday, June 21, 2012. Sandusky is charged with 51 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a period of 15 years.  (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — The child sex abuse case that shook Penn State University and led to the ouster of beloved football coach Joe Paterno will soon be in the hands of a jury.

Closing arguments were set for Thursday morning in the trial of Jerry Sandusky, a longtime Paterno assistant accused of sexually abusing boys he met through a youth charity he founded.

Sandusky arrived for court with his wife, Dottie, and didn't answer questions as he entered the courthouse in Bellefonte, about 10 miles from Penn State's campus main campus known as Happy Valley.

Jurors could start meeting behind closed doors in the afternoon to start weighing Sandusky's fate.

More than a week of often-explicit testimony wrapped up Wednesday after Sandusky's defense team rested without calling their client to the stand.

Once famed for his coaching acumen, Sandusky is charged with 51 criminal counts for the alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years in hotels, at his home and in the football team's showers. Sandusky has maintained his innocence, and his attorneys have tried to weaken the prosecution's case by discrediting police investigators and suggesting that accusers are hoping to cash in on potential civil lawsuits.

Sandusky's arrest in November sparked an explosive scandal that led to the firing of Paterno and the departure of the university president, and cast a critical eye on the role of college administrators in reporting abuse allegations. The sweeping case also led to renewed focus on child abuse issues.

The defense called just four new witnesses Wednesday, including a physician who they used to try to poke holes in the story of a Penn State assistant coach who testified that he saw Sandusky sexually assault a boy in the team showers more than a decade ago.

Defense attorneys finished in three days, resting around lunchtime Wednesday only after a longer-than-expected recess during which Sandusky and his lawyers huddled in private amid rampant speculation in the courtroom that he would take the witness stand.

Judge John Cleland said he will begin Thursday by issuing jury instructions. The defense would then present its closing remarks before the prosecution takes its turn.

Then it's the jury that will determine the schedule depending on how long they take in deliberations. If convicted, the 68-year-old former defensive coordinator could be sent to state prison for the rest of his life.

Jurors will have to decide whether the defense was able to create sufficient doubt based on how the investigation was conducted, the reliability and motives of the accusers, and Sandusky's decades-long reputation as a man who worked tirelessly to help underprivileged children.

Prosecutors called 22 witnesses, including eight young men, ages 18 to 28, who alleged a range of abuse from grooming, kissing and massaging to fondling, oral sex and anal rape when they were boys.

Many of the 28 defense witnesses testified briefly to vouch for Sandusky's reputation. The defense's case has consisted of character witnesses who defended Sandusky's reputation, a psychologist who said Sandusky had a personality disorder and the ex-coach's wife, who said she did not see her husband do anything inappropriate with the accusers. His lawyers showed that an investigator had shared information with an accuser about other alleged victims' stories and repeatedly suggested that accusers have financial motivations for their claims.

Sandusky was only heard from via a November interview with NBC's Bob Costas, saying he probably shouldn't have showered with boys; and in letters he wrote to one of his accusers.

One of the last witnesses called was Dr. Jonathan Dranov, a physician summoned to the home of Mike McQueary's father in February 2001 to hear McQueary's account of seeing Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the campus showers. The boy, known only as Victim 2, has never been identified and isn't known to prosecutors.

Dranov testified that McQueary told of hearing "sexual sounds" and seeing a boy in the shower before an arm reached around to pull him out of view. McQueary said he made eye contact with the boy and Sandusky later emerged from the showers, Dranov said.

That account is different from what McQueary told a grand jury and testified to at a preliminary hearing and at the trial. He has said he saw Sandusky directly behind the boy's back, moving his midsection enough to convince McQueary it was a sex act.

Sandusky didn't take the stand after his lawyer suggested in opening statements that he might and a day after his wife, Dottie, testified. In interviews Sandusky did shortly after his arrest in November, with the support and presence of defense attorney Joe Amendola, his responses were halting and uncertain, raising doubts about how he might stand up to cross-examination.

Criminal defendants in Pennsylvania, in serious crimes, generally are required to waive their right to testify on their own behalf, although that does not always happen in open court.

One of the jurors was excused from the case Wednesday with an illness; the female juror was replaced by an alternate, also a woman.

Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger also asked Cleland to dismiss five counts related to so-called Victim 8, the other boy never identified by investigators. Rominger argued that the timing of the charges had not been proven by the testimony of a janitor's co-worker, who said the janitor had told him he saw Sandusky molest the boy in a shower. The Penn State janitor himself was ruled not medically competent to testify.

The judge didn't immediately rule on the motion.

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