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September 6, 2012

Lawyer: Sandusky regrets not taking the stand

HARRISBURG — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky regrets not taking the stand at his child sex abuse trial and likely will be sentenced next month, his defense lawyer said Wednesday.

Attorney Joe Amendola said he has not received a presentence report for Sandusky from the county court system and the defense has not decided whether to contest a recommendation that the 68-year-old be declared a sexually violent predator under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, which would subject him to stringent reporting requirements if he ever is released on parole.

“The reality is Jerry is going to get a sentence, which, if it’s not reversed on appeal, is going to be tantamount to a life sentence,” Amendola said.

Sandusky, who maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but saying he never molested them, regrets not taking the witness stand to dispute the claims of several young men who accused him of abuse, Amendola said.

“He does now,” Amendola said. “What do they say about Monday morning? 20-20?”

Amendola had suggested in his opening statement to the jury that Sandusky might testify.

Amendola said he has continued to warn Sandusky about plans to make a statement at sentencing to Judge John Cleland because going into specifics could return to haunt him if he eventually gets a new trial.

A tape of an interview Sandusky gave to NBC shortly after his November arrest was played to jurors at his trial. In the interview, Sandusky said he’s not sexually attracted to young boys and shouldn’t have showered with them.

Amendola said anything Sandusky says could be used against him and he has talked to Sandusky “about being cautious.”

Pennsylvania criminal defendants generally are sentenced within three months of conviction, but that can be extended under certain circumstances, and Amendola said the defense needs more time to evaluate whether to contest the recommendation that Sandusky be deemed a sexually violent predator.

He said the sentencing for Sandusky, who was convicted in late June, is “looking more and more like it’s going to be October,” based on “the fact that we haven’t gotten a date, and it’s the 5th of September.”

Asked about reports that Sandusky was working on a book while incarcerated, Amendola said it was more like a long version of Sandusky’s account that might be helpful to other lawyers during any appeals process.

Amendola has begun work on post-trial motions that can’t be filed until after sentencing. He said Sandusky will have 10 days to file post-sentencing motions and the judge would have four or five months to rule on them. If Sandusky loses those efforts, he would then have a month to file an appeal to Superior Court.

A core issue, Amendola said, remains whether Sandusky did not get a fair trial because the judge denied his efforts to delay it.

He said the day Sandusky first was charged in November he was shocked to learn there were more than one or two people prosecutors said were victims — there were eight, with two more added in a second set of charges that followed in December.

Amendola said some people who had promised to help Sandusky turned their backs on him once he was charged.

“I was left in a moral dilemma: Do I abandon him, too?” said Amendola, who acknowledged he isn’t sure he’ll still be representing Sandusky in an appeal process.

Sandusky remains in an isolated unit with 10 or 15 other inmates at the Centre County jail. Most fellow inmates have been “very nice to him,” Amendola said, but one engaged in what the lawyer described as “mouthing off to him one night.”

“Jerry says they’re very sympathetic,” Amendola said. “As a matter of fact, a number of them have said they’re innocent, too.”

Amendola said Sandusky’s visitors have included his wife, family friends, former players and former participants in his charity, The Second Mile. He declined to identify the players, and a message left for the jail warden wasn’t immediately returned.

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