November 25, 2020

Sandusky waives hearing, vows to fight charges

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Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing boys, leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, after waiving his preliminary hearing. The decision moves him toward a trial on charges of child sex abuse. At least some of his 10 accusers had been expected to testify at Tuesday's hearing. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky opted against a preliminary hearing in his child molestation case, sparing his accusers from making their claims in a packed courtroom Tuesday but still vowing, in his attorney’s words, to “fight to the death.”

Sandusky’s attorney, Joseph Amendola, said the move was tactical, and he later told reporters outside the courthouse that the credibility of the witnesses would be a key issue. He said he believed some of the young men may have trumped up their claims and that others may have come forward in a bid for monetary gain.

“There will be no plea negotiations,” Amendola said. “This is a fight to the death.”

Sandusky has denied the allegations, which led to the departures of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and the university president. He is charged with more than 50 counts that accuse him of sexually abusing 10 boys over the span of 12 years.

Sandusky told reporters as he left the courthouse that he would “stay the course, to fight for four quarters” and “wait for the opportunity to present our side.”

His decision to waive the hearing, though unexpected, is not unusual in Pennsylvania.

At the hearings, prosecutors must show that they have probable cause to bring the case to trial. Prosecutors in this case were expected to meet that relatively low bar, in part because the case  had been through a grand jury.

Amendola said Sandusky waived the hearing to head off a repeat of the child sex-abuse allegations, which “really would have left us with the worst of all worlds.” He said the decision had nothing to do with “cowardice or gamesmanship” and that the defense was not conceding guilt.

Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said the amount of publicity generated by Amendola made the move unexpected, but said the decision to waive was not unusual given the strength of the state’s case.

“This development we believe provides maximum protection to most importantly the victims in this case,” Costanzo said. “It avoids their having to testify for a second time. They will of course testify at a trial in the case.”

Costanzo also said there had been no discussions about a plea bargain.

Sandusky’s next court appearance, an arraignment, is scheduled for Jan. 11. He remains under house arrest.

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