BELLEFONTE — Joe Amendola, the lawyer representing Jerry Sandusky, had a mission in the months leading up to the trial — get the prosecutors in the case to turn over as much information in their case as possible in the hope of raising doubt about the victims’ accusations.
Amendola got more than 9,400 pages of documents during the discovery process — plus another 2,100 from subpoenas and 674 pages of grand jury transcripts. All told, he amassed a collection of 12,000 copies.
As it turns out, Amendola testified Thursday during a court hearing for Sandusky, many of the documents the attorney labored to get were irrelevant to the trial he tried to have delayed multiple times on the grounds he needed more time to prepare a defense.
Amendola took the stand as part of a hearing for Sandusky’s defense to try to persuade Senior Judge John Cleland to overturn the conviction and grant a new trial because the attorneys were deluged with paperwork that kept them from building their case.
Cleland did not immediately rule from the bench after the 90 minute hearing.
While answering questions from his co-counsel Norris Gelman, Amendola testified he made 50 requests in the months before the June trial. By mid-May, with trial imminent, he called off his private investigators from tracking down witnesses and evidence, Amendola said.
But when pressed by prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan III on cross-examination if any of the discovery materials he has since read would have changed the defense strategy, Amendola said no.
Many were irrelevant, Amendola said.
McGettigan argued that the only materials that were part of the trial were about 1,000 pages of discovery materials considered mandatory, discretionary or exculpatory. The rest were materials Amendola asked for, numbering more than 8,000.
Cleland also will weigh arguments from the defense about whether the jury should not have heard testimony from Ronald Petrosky, a janitor at Penn State who in 2000 was told by a fellow janitor about Sandusky in a shower with a young boy. The defense contends that Cleland made a mistake by allowing it.
If Cleland throws out the conviction on those counts, it would not change Sandusky’s 30- to 60-year sentence, as the sentence for those counts was to run concurrent to the more serious charges. Cleland did not think that would result in a new trial.
Sandusky arrived in Centre County on Wednesday from the state prison outside Waynesburg, Greene County, where he is being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day serving a 30-to-60-year sentence. The former Penn State defensive coach was in good spirits, Amendola said.
Dottie Sandusky, who is allowed only one visit a month to see her husband, sat in the front row at the hearing. After it was over, Jerry Sandusky blew her and other family members a kiss, saying “Love you all” before he was escorted out.
Sandusky’s attorneys are hopeful the judge will side with them. Gelman likened their chances to making a three-point shot in basketball.
Prosecutor Frank Fina does not think the defense will prevail, and he went as far as telling the judge that Amendola did a “very professional” job of cross-examining witnesses.
“I think the people of Pennsylvania should be confident that this conviction is going to stand,” Fina told reporters after the hearing.
If Cleland denies Sandusky’s request, the attorneys could appeal to the state’s Superior Court.
However, the prosecution team that would handle it from the Attorney General’s Office is unclear, as Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane will be sworn in next week, replacing the outgoing attorney general, Linda Kelly. Kane has said she will order an internal probe of the Attorney General’s Office investigation into Sandusky.
After the hearing, Fina said his last day in the Attorney General’s Office will be Jan. 18. McGettigan said he is not sure if he will stay at his post.
McGettigan also praised Fina on Thursday for recognizing Sandusky as a possible pedophile after the report from the young man from Clinton County in 2008 and using the grand jury to investigate. Fina said convicting Sandusky on what would have been a misdemeanor count would have been difficult, and losing the case likely would have scared off Sandusky’s victims.