A new judge has been assigned in the child sex-abuse case against former Pennsylvania State University football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, court officials announced Wednesday.
Senior Westmoreland County, Pa. Magisterial District Judge Robert E. Scott has been named as the jurist who will preside over Sandusky’s preliminary hearing, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 7 at the Centre County Courthouse, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The assignment came in response to a request from the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, the AOPC stated, and follows controversy surrounding Sandusky’s bail proceedings after his arraignment.
Sandusky was arraigned earlier this month by Magisterial District Judge Leslie Dutchcot in Bellefonte, Pa. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bail, despite a push for larger bail by prosecutors.
It was soon discovered that Dutchcot was a volunteer and donor to the Second Mile, the nonprofit organization Sandusky founded in the late 1970s that helps underprivileged kids.
It was at the Second Mile that Sandusky allegedly met the young boys he would go on to sexually molest, according to the grand jury presentment handed up recently in the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal that has rocked not just Pennsylvania, but the nation.
The scandal also led to the firings of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and the school’s president, Graham Spanier.
The AOPC announcement said the move to switch judges at this stage of the game was designed to rid the process of any perceived improprieties.
“[Judge Scott] has no known connections with the Pennsylvania State University, the Second Mile charity, nor any officers or representatives of any of those entities,” the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts announcement states.
Scott, who has been a jurist since 1964, has retired from active service but remains available by appointment to hear cases.
Some had criticized Dutchcot’s involvement in the Sandusky case after it became known that she had ties to the Second Mile.
On Wednesday, Lynn A. Marks, the executive director of the advocacy group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, told the Pennsylvania Record that Dutchcot should have made her connections to Sandusky known prior to being assigned over his arraignment proceedings.
“Judge Dutchcot should have put this information on the record and given the parties an opportunity to request her recusal from the case,” Marks said. “In fact, we believe that recusal would have been the wise decision, but Pennsylvania gives a lot of discretion to judges regarding recusal decisions.”
In addition to the judge replacement news, the AOPC also announced that, given the strong public interest in the Penn State case, a new website has been launched to keep interested parties up-to-date.
Any information on the Sandusky case as it moves forward can be found at: www.co.centre.pa.us/media.