Prosecutors think Centre Countians have heard and read too much about the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case and are too connected to Penn State to be unbiased jurors at the trial of the former Nittany Lion defensive coordinator.
The Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday asked the judge overseeing the case to select jurors from outside the county to hear the case. Prosecutors argue that’s the best way to ensure fairness for both the commonwealth and Sandusky, who’s charged with molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period.
Sandusky’s attorney, Joe Amendola, disputed Tuesday the assertions by the prosecution.
In his motion, Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan called the media coverage intense, extended and pervasive. “There can be absolutely no
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doubt that the media coverage of this matter has been spectacular in its breadth and intensity,” he wrote. “The nature of the crimes committed, and the location and circumstances of their commission, have catapulted this case into the national conversation.”
McGettigan also described the relationship between Penn State and the Centre County community as “philosophically and economically” intertwined.
“The citizens of Centre County feel a laudable and proper sense of ownership of, and participate in, the fortunes of Penn State. To ask members of that community to break down that alloy and insulate themselves from the institution which informs so many aspects of their lives is asking too much.”
Amendola said he was disappointed in the motion for a change of venire and disagreed with prosecutors’ arguments.
“Jerry’s case has drawn national attention, as a result of which we feel there’s no better place than Centre County from which to select fair-minded individuals to sit as jurors in Jerry’s case,” Amendola said. “We will vehemently oppose the commonwealth’s motion for a change of venire.”
The deadline for motions on such matters to be filed is today .
Senior Judge John Cleland will decide by Feb. 8 on the change of venire request and any motions filed by Amendola.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts of sexually assaulting 10 boys from 1994 to December 2008. Some of the assaults are alleged to have happened on Penn State’s campus.
Sandusky remains confined to his College Township home after posting $250,000 bail.
McGettigan wrote in his motion he didn’t think the case had contaminated all of Pennsylvania. He argued people who live in other counties don’t have as intimate a connection with Penn State.
McGettigan said in his motion that he is not seeking a change of venue that would move the trial to another county. He argued that such a move would be “logistically impractical” for witnesses, and said it is essential that Centre County “be the site of justice.”
“Precisely because of this unique relationship between the community and school ... it is important that the trial and verdict unfold there.”
Steve Dershem, chairman of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, said the board created a $35,000 line in this year’s budget to cover potential court costs arising from the Sandusky case.
He said there are several possible costs that could affect the county: paying for jurors’ room and board, including a per diem of $9 a day for the first three days and $25 a day after that and expenses arising from sequestering the jury.
“If they sequester the jury then we have to provide oversight of that, which is usually done by the tipstaff in a regular case, but in a case that might be protracted like this one, it’s hard to tell,” Dershem said. The tipstaff sits with a jury.
Dershem said those expenses are considerably less than what a change of venue could costs. In that case, the county would have to send its team to another county, which would include paying for room and board and the use of another county’s courthouse.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Staff writer Anne Danahy contributed to this report.