BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky opened his defense in his molestation trial Monday with character witnesses who defended his reputation, including a former Penn State coach who said he knew Sandusky brought boys into showers but never saw him do anything wrong.
The six witnesses, one who called Sandusky a “local hero,” did little to directly counter the testimony last week by eight young men who accused the former Penn State assistant football coach of sexually abusing them when they were children.
Judge John Cleland told jurors Sandusky’s defense has about a day and a half left of testimony and that they could begin deliberations on the case as early as Thursday – a quicker schedule than had been expected.
Sandusky looked an Associated Press reporter in the eye and said nothing when asked if he planned to testify.
Other possible defense witnesses to come include his wife, Dottie; and an expert who could discuss whether Sandusky has “histrionic personality disorder,” which experts have called a personality disorder characterized by inappropriate sexual behavior and erratic emotions.
The list of potential witnesses also includes a physician who spoke with key prosecution witness Mike McQueary the night he said he saw Sandusky attack a child in a football team shower in 2001, and members of former football coach Joe Paterno’s family, although it was unclear how they might fit into the defense case or whether they will be called.
Sandusky’s arrest led the university trustees to fire Paterno as coach in November, saying his response to the 2001 report from McQueary showed a lack of leadership.
Paterno died of cancer in January.
Dick Anderson, a longtime Penn State assistant and Sandusky friend who retired in January, testified that he and other members of the football staff were present when Sandusky brought young boys into the team’s showers.
He said he never witnessed anything inappropriate.
“If Jerry would bring someone in with The Second Mile, they had been working out, for whatever reason they came in, it was not uncommon ... with the other coaches in the shower as well,” Anderson said, referring to the charity for at-risk children Sandusky founded in 1977.
Anderson, who coached at Penn State from 1970 to 1983 and again from 1990 to 2011, said adults and children often shower together at gyms. He noted, for example, that it’s not unusual for him to be in the showers with boys at the YMCA.
Anderson also spoke in detail about the long hours of coaching and recruiting trips required of the job, which could lay the groundwork for a defense argument that accuser testimony about regular contact with Sandusky may be inaccurate or exaggerated.
Anderson said he did not know Sandusky had been barred by university administrators from taking children onto campus after the 2001 incident was reported by McQueary, although that was disclosed in court documents and has been widely and repeatedly reported since Sandusky’s arrest.
When lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan asked him if that fact would surprise him, Anderson said yes.
Prosecutors claim Sandusky targeted his victims at The Second Mile, groomed them for abuse, then moved from touching and kissing to more severe forms of sexual abuse, including in some cases oral or anal sex. Sandusky has denied all the allegations against him.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors told Cleland they were dropping one of the 52 counts, that of felony unlawful contact with the accuser known as Victim 7. Prosecutor Frank Fina said the statute he was charged under did not cover the time frame when the alleged act occurred.
Cleland ruled against defense motions Monday that charges were too vague or nonspecific to defend, and that there isn’t solid evidence of the ages of two alleged victims.
Prosecutors rested their case after calling their 21st witness, the mother of so-called Victim 9, a recent high school graduate who testified last week that Sandusky raped him in the basement of the coach’s suburban home.
The woman said her son told her that Sandusky called him late one night after the first round of charges were filed in November, asking if he would be a character witness.
“He said that Jerry asked him to make an affidavit or some kind of statement on what kind of character or person he was,” she said. “Why would he call my kid after he’s being accused of things like this?”
In December, prosecutors brought more charges against Sandusky, alleging he’d had forced anal sex with the boy.
Victim 9’s mother said the boy’s laundry would often be short of underwear and he would claim he had thrown it away because he had an accident. Last week, the teen said Sandusky forced him to have anal sex that made him bleed.
In tearful testimony, she described gifts Sandusky gave her son, then added: “I wish he would just give him underwear to replace the underwear I could never find in my laundry.”
The defense’s case focused largely on Sandusky’s reputation. Anderson said he was “well thought of in every regard,” former Penn State assistant coach Booker Brooks called his reputation “exemplary, top-knotch,” and local political consultant Brent Pasquinelli, who raised money for The Second Mile, called him “a local hero.”
Besides Anderson, Brooks and Pasquinelli, three other witnesses testified for the defense Monday: a woman who ran a golf-related charity to which one accuser was recommended by Sandusky, a young man who knew Sandusky through The Second Mile and vouched for his reputation, and a schoolteacher who said Sandusky seemed genuinely interested in helping one of the alleged victims in the case. None was on the stand for more than 10 minutes.
Tom Kline, a Philadelphia lawyer who represents one of the accusers, said he was served a defense subpoena on Monday, ordering him to produce a copy of the fee agreement he has made with Victim 5, along with copies of his interactions with reporters.