Sandusky breaks silence in Penn State scandal; lawyers question move to allow accused to speak out

By Jon Campisi | Nov 16, 2011

In the latest development in the Penn State University child sex-abuse scandal, accused former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky finally broke his silence, proclaiming his innocence to NBC’s Bob Costas.

The Nov. 14 interview on NBC News’ “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” with Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions football team, has raised eyebrows among members of the public and in the legal world, with some questioning why, in the midst of a high-profile criminal case, Sandusky’s attorneys would allow his client to speak on national television about the charges against him.

During the interview with Costas, Sandusky, who stands accused of sexually molesting eight young boys beginning in the late 1990s, denied that he had sexual relations with the boys.

“Mr. Sandusky, there’s a 40-count indictment. The grand jury report contains specific detail. There are multiple accusers, multiple eyewitnesses to various aspects of the abuse. A reasonable person says where there’s this much smoke, there must be plenty of fire. What do you say?” Costas asked Sandusky during the interview, the transcript of which was posted online.

Sandusky’s reply: “I say that I am innocent of those charges.”

During the interview, Sandusky went on to admit that he may have engaged in some inappropriate behavior with the young boys, saying he has “horsed around” with kids, and showered with some after workouts.

Sandusky also said, “I have hugged them and I have touched their leg. Without intent of sexual contact.”

Costas then asked Sandusky if he was denying that he had any sexual contact with any of the underage boys, to which Sandusky replied: “Yes, I – yes I am.”

The fact that Sandusky’s attorney allowed him to do a pre-trial interview with the media seems to show the criminal defense team has faith in their case.

To others, however, the decision to allow a criminal defendant, and future potential defendant in a civil action, to go on national television to discuss his alleged crimes is startling.

“Why would you put your client on national TV?” New York attorney Tom Harvey told the New York Daily News on Tuesday. “You’d have to say it certainly deviates from the norm that you would let a criminal defendant talk about his alleged acts on national television. It’s hard to believe.”

Harvey told the newspaper that Sandusky’s comments could come back to haunt him since his own words can be used against him during his criminal trial.

“When he goes on the stand all of those statements can arguably be used against him,” Harvey was quoted as saying. “If he tries to say they are hearsay, the prosecutors would say it is an exception – he made the statements against interests.”

In that same Daily News article, Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, called Sandusky’s admissions to the media “legally insane.”

Other media pundits have questioned why Sandusky would have admitted to any inappropriate conduct, since some of the activities described by the defendant himself, such as horsing around with, and touching some of the youth inappropriately, can be criminal acts themselves, possibly leading to misdemeanor abuse charges or the like.

Meanwhile, in another development, Sandusky’s criminal defense attorney, Joe Amendola, said in an interview with The Today Show Tuesday morning that he had located an alleged rape victim, now in his 20s, who denies that he was raped by Sandusky in 2002.

Amendola also said on the show that some of the newer victims who have since come forth might be doing so not because they were abused, but because they may stand to gain financially if the notorious case ends up in civil courts.

The man Amendola claims to have located, the lawyer told the morning show, is “telling a very different story … and that’s big news.”

Still, Amendola said he is still trying to determine if, in fact, the man he located is the same man who, it is being alleged, was anally raped by Sandusky in the shower of a Penn State athletic facility in 2002, an act supposedly witnessed by then-graduate student, and current assistant coach Mike McQueary.

“Is it possible that Jerry did all of these things?” Amendola asked Today Show host Ann Curry. “Of course. And, if he did, they are the most serious types of offenses that anyone can commit upon children and he should be punished accordingly.

“But what if he didn’t?” the attorney continued. “What if he is innocent, and his life will never be the same …”

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