The much-anticipated preliminary hearing for accused pedophile Jerry Sandusky, set to be the biggest thing to occur in the tiny central Pennsylvania town of Bellefonte, population 6,000, in quite some time, ended almost as quickly as it started.
At the last minute, Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach who stands accused of sexually abusing a slew of underage boys during a 15-year period, waived his hearing, setting the stage for a trial that one Pennsylvania court administrator has described as “our O.J. trial.”
The legal strategy apparently annoyed some – national media had congregated in Bellefonte, Pa. the seat of Centre County, also home to Penn State – and relieved others.
“This is the most difficult time of my life. I can’t put into words how unbearable this has been on my life, both physically and mentally,” the man identified as Victim #4 said in a statement released by his attorneys at Harrisburg-based Andreozzi & Associates. “I can’t believe they put us through this until the last second only to waive the hearing. I want to thank all the people who have shown support.
“Regardless of the decision to waive the hearing, nothing has changed,” the statement continues. “I will stand my ground, testify and speak the truth.”
The hearing was expected to be quite the spectacle, the case having drawn national media attention.
Some of Sandusky’s victims were prepared to testify at the hearing, which was to take place before an out-of-county judge given the fact that local jurists had recused themselves due to possible conflicts of interest.
(The district judge who had set Sandusky’s bail after his initial preliminary arraignment following his arrest last month caught flack for her ties to The Second Mile, the charitable youth organization started by Sandusky in the late 1970s that is said to be where Sandusky met many of his alleged victims).
Waiving his right to a preliminary hearing means Sandusky’s case will now proceed to trial at Common Pleas Court.
Court information shows that Sandusky’s next court appearance will be for his Jan. 11 formal arraignment. A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for March 22, 2012.
Grand jury reports have accused Sandusky, the football team’s former defensive coordinator, of 50-plus counts of child molestation stemming from incidents in which he allegedly sexually abused young boys, both on and off the university’s campus.
Two others, former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, are also facing charges stemming from the sex-abuse scandal.
The two, who are scheduled for preliminary hearings this Friday, are charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury investing the abuse claims. The two are also facing failure to report charges.
As for Sandusky’s quick turnaround regarding his preliminary hearing, the move seems to have garnered mixed reaction.
Attorney Howard Janet, who represents “Victim #6, told the Philadelphia Inquirer Tuesday that he was annoyed that Sandusky’s attorney, Joseph Amendola, had insisted all along that the preliminary hearing would go forward, giving the alleged victims a chance to be heard, all the while questioning the victims’ credibility in news reports.
Amendola, who said he expects the case to go to trial in late 2012, said the decision to waive the hearing, which was arrived at late Monday, was made because he felt there would be nothing to be gained from moving forward with the hearing, according to the Inquirer.
“Today was a short part of the legal process – a part that would have been one-sided, a part that would have consisted of the Commonwealth putting on the same testimony that led to this point,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “Realistically, all that would have done would have reinforced what you already believe – that Jerry Sandusky is guilty.”
According to the Legal Intelligencer, whose reporters attended the proceeding, about 11 people, mostly alleged victims, were expected to testify before the packed courtroom of about 200 spectators, before the accused waived his right to the hearing.
The newspaper reported that Amendola spoke to the media horde that had gathered outside of the courthouse for about an hour Tuesday morning.