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Sandusky Takes Stand Over Request for Local Jury

Jerry Sandusky
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky briefly testified at a pretrial hearing Friday, telling the judge overseeing his child sex-abuse case that he believes a local jury would be as fair and unbiased as those from  anywhere else in Pennsylvania.

Judge John Cleland wanted to hear directly from Sandusky on the jury question. Prosecutors want to seat an out-of-county jury in the high-profile case, given the widespread media attention and close ties many people in Centre County have to Penn State.

Cleland also set a tentative trial date of May 14. Sandusky acknowledged that his position on the jury question means he could not appeal a conviction on grounds the local jury  was biased.

“I don’t believe that would matter, relative to any place (else) in this state,” he testified.

The judge heard arguments on several other issues, including complaints from neighbors that Sandusky had been spotted on his back porch, adjacent to a nearby schoolyard. He promised to rule on those issues promptly, but gave no specific time frame.

Prosecutors and Sandusky’s attorney made dueling requests about restrictions on the former coach’s movements. Prosecutors want him confined to the inside of his house while on home confinement awaiting trial; the defense asked that he be allowed out occasionally to help with the case.

Defense attorney Joe Amdendola also asked that Sandusky, 68, be permitted to see his grandchildren, a request strenuously opposed by prosecutors.

“This home was not safe for children for 15 years, and it’s not safe for children now,” said state prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach. Prosecutors noted that one daughter-in-law strongly objects to increased contact between her children and Sandusky.

Amendola presented the court with letters from Sandusky’s children, and notes and drawings from his grandchildren, expressing their desire for increased contact. He also noted a court-appointed guardian for grandchildren who are part of a custody dispute found no reason Sandusky couldn’t see them.

The state attorney general’s office has asked for tougher bail rules, arguing that Sandusky should remain inside because neighbors and school staff have complained about his presence near the school.

Sassano testified that children had noticed him from their classroom, and that his presence was disrupting school activities. One neighbor had used a video camera to document Sandusky’s time on his deck, Sassano said.

Under questioning from Amendola, Sassano testified that Sandusky was seen on the video brushing his dog or letting the dog outside to play. Amendola cannot walk the dog because of his bail restrictions, Amendola said.

Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts for alleged sexual misconduct involving boys over 15 years, actions that police and prosecutors  say have included violent sexual assault inside the Penn State football team facilities. He has denied the allegations.

The scandal led the Penn State trustees to push out university president Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno, who died last month.

Two Penn State administrators are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failed to properly report suspected child abuse. Gary Schultz, a former vice president, and Tim Curley, the athletic director, have both denied the allegations.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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