Even though Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse this past Friday, in legal terms, his case could be far from over.
Karl Rominger, co-counsel for Sandusky’s defense, said there will be appeals that will be pursued.
Sandusky’s lead defense attorney Joe Amendola said that after the verdict was read, the Sandusky family was very disappointed. Even so, he said “we will respect [the jury’s] verdict.”
Rominger said that he and Amendola warned Sandusky and his family of the conditions of Sandusky being convicted. He said that the family knew that Sandusky would not be allowed to talk to them after a verdict was read in court had he been convicted of a substantial number of charges. The Attorney General requested that Sandusky be handcuffed as soon he was convicted, but Cleland declined the request so long as Sandusky agreed to leave the courtroom with court officers directly following the verdict.
Amendola said there was an overwhelming amount of evidence against Sandusky and he had been presumed guilty before the trial began.
He said that this was an uphill battle for the defense and related it to climbing Mount Everest.
Rominger said that the biggest issue the defense faced was the number of people who testified against Sandusky.
“We believe that the sheer number of accusers was due to police gathering people [and] telling them what to say,” he said. Rominger said that the problem was that the jury found these people to be credible witnesses for the prosecution.
He compared the situation to hearing a rumor from one of your friends about another person — you may not completely believe the rumor, but if 15 people tell you the same thing, you’re much more likely to believe a rumor.
Lack of time was another issue for the defense team, Rominger said.
“Due to judicial constrictions, we were forced to proceed [with] this trial at this time,” Amendola said.
Senior Judge John Cleland denied Amendola’s request to postpone the May 14 trial date until mid-July.
Rominger said that he and Amendola tried to “secretly withdraw” from representing Sandusky, because the defense was not ready to go to trial — an act that would most likely result in a continuance of the trial. Rominger said that he and Amendola could still represent Sandusky had this been granted, assuming Cleland would have allowed them to do so.
Given the large amount of information in the case, Amendola wrote in the motion that he needed more time to prepare Sandusky’s defense — specifically, to locate potential witnesses.
Also in the motion, Amendola wrote that he needed more time to subpoena the people and agencies outlined in the pretrial materials so he would have the opportunity to conduct interviews and make arrangements for expert witnesses for the trial.
The Commonwealth did not object to the request to push back the trial date, according to the motion.
Robert Del Greco, a Pittsburgh-based attorney, said the defense team will most likely file a motion for a new trial and an arrest of judgment. He said that the defense will give Cleland the option to reverse himself, adding that a reversal of the trial judge seldom occurs.
If Cleland denies these motions, the defendant will be sentenced — Cleland said after the verdict was read that sentencing will happen in about 90 days.
After Sandusky is sentenced, his defense team will have 30 days to appeal to the superior court — in this case, the superior court is an appellate court, Del Greco said.
An appellate court does not take evidence or testimony into consideration, rather this court focuses on “what the trial judge did wrong,” Del Greco said.
“One of the things they’re saying is that [Cleland] made them go to trial too fast,” Del Greco said.
Therefore the defense said it was unable to thoroughly review the evidence, he said. As a result, the defense might argue that the court deprived effective assistance of council Del Greco said adding that this is a problem because Sandusky has the right to effective counsel in his defense.
In other words, the defense will claim that Sandusky did not get a fair trial because his attorneys did not have time to properly prepare, Del Greco said. The defense will ask the superior appellate court to overturn the conviction based on this argument, he said.
The appellate court will essentially rule on how many issues are at hand and ultimately determine whether or not Sandusky received a fair trial or if there was any “reversible error,” Del Greco said.
If there was reversible error, the case will be sent back to the Court of Common Pleas, he said.
“My suspicion is that there is not sufficient error…[in] my opinion this conviction will not be overturned,” Del Greco said.
Rominger disagrees — he said that a new trial is a realistic goal for a variety of reasons.
He said that lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan’s closing argument could warrant a mistrial. At the end of McGettigan’s argument “he referenced that the defendant could have done more, you can’t argue that a defendant should have come forward with anything,” Rominger said.
Cleland made it a point to tell the jury that Sandusky had no legal obligation to prove or defend anything.
Whether or not Amendola and Rominger remain Sandusky’s defense attorneys depends upon whether the trial judge will hear the incompetent defense claim before the appeals to a higher court begins, Rominger said. He said that if Cleland allows the incompetent defense claim to be heard before the appeals process, that they will not represent Sandusky throughout the appeals process.
He also said the defense has some other issues that it will appeal.
In addition to possible appeals from Sandusky’s defense team, this case could remain in the spotlight in regard to civil suits.
Justine Andronici said that her clients, the men referred to as “Victim 5” and “Victim 7” as well as Matt Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son, have not come to a definitive decision about any civil lawsuits as of Friday, June 22. She said her clients were only focused on the verdict of the trial at this point in time.
Meanwhile, Penn State University may see civil suits as well.
Before the conviction, a Penn State spokesman said the university hopes to solve all civil lawsuits related to the Sandusky case out of the courtroom.
David La Torre, a Penn State spokesman, said before the verdict was read that Penn State President Rodney Erickson is looking to make it as easy as possible for those who were abused by Sandusky.
"For Dr. Erickson, it's about continuing to try to do everything with the victims in mind," La Torre said on June 1. "If a court trial can be avoided, Dr. Erickson would certainly like to see that be the case."
La Torre said on June 1 that he is unsure how many lawsuits Penn State will face that are related to the Sandusky case.
In a statement released after the verdict was read, the university said it wants to “continue that dialogue and do its part to help victims continue their path forward.” The statement read that Penn State has created a program to help solve any claims.
“The purpose of the program is simple — the University wants to provide a forum where the University can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the University,” according to the statement.
Lawyers for the university will reach out to those representing people abused by Sandusky with “additional details,” according to the statement.
In addition to civil suits, a criminal trial is still underway involving two former Penn State employees.
Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz are charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse in connection with the Sandusky case. Trial dates have not been set yet, but there is a status hearing set for July 11.
In regard to sentencing that is scheduled to happen sometime in September, Rominger said that they will argue that Sandusky has done a lot of “redeeming things.” He said that people shouldn’t be punished solely on their bad acts.
He said that if Sandusky does not win any of his appeals that he will die in prison.
Under different circumstances, he would consider Sandusky “a good guy to know,” he said. Rominger said that Sandusky is on suicide watch at the Centre County Correctional Facility.
Rominger said he plans to visit his client as well as call Dottie Sandusky today.