BELLEFONTE — The hearing in the Jerry Sandusky case Thursday that was expected go on for an hour or more, addressing a series of pre-trial motions, was brief and ended without either side presenting arguments.
But a lively debate took place outside the courtroom, on the square in front of the Centre County Courthouse.
During the hearing, the defense withdrew its motions about suppressing recorded conversations and statements Sandusky made to a Penn State police investigator in 1998. The judge didn’t rule on anything either.
But what underlay the hearing, and stood out as the reason the matters were held off, was that the secret grand jury is still investigating — who or what remains unknown.
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The mention came up several times in court as well as during a hyperbolic press conference afterward.
That the investigation remains open was the driving point behind the most important issue not resolved Thursday — the defense’s motion to dismiss the case. Sandusky’s attorney, Joe Amendola asked the judge to deny the motion without prejudice, meaning the defense can refile the motion later if the prosecution puts forth more evidence.
Senior Judge John Cleland seemed to agree, saying the ongoing grand jury investigation means it’s premature to determine what can be prosecuted and what can’t be at this point. He said he would rule on the matters that need ruling by the middle of next week.
Because of the rules surrounding grand jury proceedings, prosecutors are prohibited from talking about them.
That’s what Joseph Mc- Gettigan, one of the lead prosecutors in the Sandusky case, said Thursday when asked about it.
His response to a question about the investigation lended itself more to speculation than closure: “It’s a broad investigation, I’ll say that,” he said.
Amendola told reporters he didn’t have any first-hand knowledge of what the grand jury is investigating.
“Because the commonwealth is telling us and the court that there’s an ongoing grand jury investigation — not so much even directly related to Mr. Sandusky but maybe related to other matters — they’re not really in a position to say that their investigation is complete,” Amendola said.
In court, McGettigan brought up the ongoing grand jury investigation as a response to the defense’s request for a list of “uncharged misconduct” — or allegations that haven’t resulted in formal charges.
McGettigan told the judge that prosecutors would not introduce secret grand jury testimony that hadn’t been previously disclosed.
The defense will get transcripts of the secret grand jury testimony 10 days before trial, according to an earlier order issued by the judge who oversaw the grand jury.
As Amendola for the moment backs off the motion to dismiss, he’s still hoping the judge will act on his motion to continue the trial because he maintains potential witnesses Tim Curley and Gary Schultz can counteract the testimony of Mike McQueary. Curley and Schultz are facing criminal perjury charges and will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights not to incriminate themselves under oath.
Amendola even suggested the charges related to alleged victim No. 2 could be separated from the rest of the case.
But McGettigan said he has documentation to allow him to prosecute the charges.
Neither party really addressed the defense’s motion to sequester the jury, which, if approved by the judge, could shut away at least 12 Centre County residents for the duration of the trial — two, three, even four weeks. Both sides agreed to the sequestering in written arguments.
Also Thursday, Amendola withdrew several suppression motions.
He acknowledged the items taken from Sandusky’s College Township home in June 2011 were seized with a search warrant, which the prosecution gave to the judge. It’s not immediately known if that search warrant will be made publicly available.
Amendola said the items taken don’t show any pedophilic activity, such as images of child pornography on computers, and could help the defense at trial.
The defense also withdrew its motions to suppress statements made to a Penn State police investigator in 1998, Ron Schreffler, and recorded conversations with two alleged victims. Amendola said Sandusky wasn’t in police custody and that the conversations were recorded legally.
Karl Rominger, who’s assisting Amendola with the defense, officially filed with the court Thursday to represent Sandusky. He said he did that to be able to view secret grand jury matters.
Sandusky was in court with his wife, Dottie, and their son Jeff. Upon entering the courthouse, Sandusky did not speak to reporters who asked how he was doing. In the courtroom, he sat quietly.
After the hearing, the rhetoric ratcheted up a notch.
Amendola was the first attorney to take the podium, first explaining in lay terms what happened at the proceeding, then taking questions for about 20 minutes. Among his responses, he reiterated what he has been saying for months — that the prosecution’s charges are too vague.
McGettigan stepped to the podium next, called Amendola’s question-and-answer session “a filibuster” and said the attorney is trying the case in front of the media. Again, he razzed the defense for waiving the right to a preliminary hearing in December, alleging Sandusky “did not wish to hear the litany of perversions that he was accused of.”
“The commonwealth looks forward to the day in which the victims of Jerry Sandusky are able to confront the person who victimized them, in court under oath,” McGettigan said.
McGettigan also called The Second Mile charity, which Sandusky founded in 1977, a “victim factory” for which Sandusky allegedly met the boys whom prosecutors allege he abused.
Amendola, who was doing an on-camera TV interview and didn’t hear the remark, later responded that it was “outrageous and irresponsible.”
“Jerry and Dottie are very saddened by the commonwealth attorney’s unfortunate and misguided remarks directed at The Second Mile, which has made such a positive difference in the lives of thousands of kids for over 30 years,” he said.
When Amendola retook the podium, he countered that if the prosecution had given the defense the specifics about the allegations they had asked for, the sides wouldn’t have had to come to court Thursday to address the defense’s requests.
“We’ve been trying to overcome this tidal wave of presumption of guilty since Nov. 5,” Amendola said.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616.