Sandusky conviction appeal gets underway; Scandal-prompted litigation progresses

By Jon Campisi | Sep 18, 2013

A defense attorney representing convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky

was expected to be in court Tuesday to try and persuade an appellate panel to overturn his client’s conviction on child sex-abuse.

Norris Gelman, the lawyer representing the former Penn State University assistant football coach in the appeals phase, has maintained that the defense wasn’t given adequate time by which to prepare to trial, according to court filings and news reports.

Sandusky, who is in his late 60s, was convicted on 45 counts of child molestation following a two-week trial at the Centre County Court of Common Pleas in June 2012.

The former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator was subsequently sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in state prison.

Sandusky’s appellate attorney has argued in court filings that his client was prejudiced by an inappropriate comment made on the part of the prosecution during trial referring to the fact that the defendant chose not to testify on his own behalf, according to a report this week in the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

The newspaper also reported that Gelman is expected to argue that the trial court judge, John Cleland, should have instructed the panel of jurors on the length of time between when the incidents of molestation occurred and when the victims came forward to report the sexual abuse.

For four of the victims in the case that time period spanned more than a decade, the paper reported.

Sandusky was convicted of sexually molesting 10 underage boys during a 15-year time period.

The appeal is playing out in a Wilkes-Barre, Pa. courtroom before a panel of the state Superior Court, the intermediary appeals court that sits directly under the Supreme Court.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether or not Sandusky, who is imprisoned in a state penitentiary in Waynesburg, Pa., would be shuffled across the commonwealth to attend the proceedings.

Waynesburg is located in Greene County in southwestern Pennsylvania, just below Pittsburgh, while Wilkes-Barre is located in the northeastern part of the state.

The Sandusky trial last summer drew local, national and international media attention because of the high profile nature of the case.

In the aftermath of the child sex-abuse scandal, criminal charges were filed against former Penn State officials, and Penn State University was hit with unprecedented sanctions, including a $60 million fine.

The penalties led to rampant civil litigation, including a federal antitrust suit filed by Gov. Tom Corbett that was later dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Yvette Kane in Harrisburg.

State Sen. Jake Corman and Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord filed their own civil action in state court against the National Collegiate Athletic Association seeking the return of $12 million in fine money that Penn State has already paid to the NCAA as part of the agreed upon sanctions.

That chunk of money constituted the first installment of the overall $60 million fine that was connected to the Sandusky molestation scandal.

Earlier this month, a Commonwealth Court panel overruled the NCAA’s preliminary objections in the case, allowing the litigation to move forward.

Lawyers representing the NCAA had argued that a state law passed in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, the Institution of Higher Education Monetary Penalty Endowment Act, was unconstitutional because it forces fine money that arose out of an agreement between private parties to be dumped into state coffers.

The law directs the Penn State fine money to be placed into Pennsylvania’s treasury to be used toward education initiatives regarding child sex-abuse awareness.

Corman, who represents a district encompassing Penn State in Centre County, has said in prior statements that the funds should remain within the state’s borders since it would greatly benefit the commonwealth.

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