Jerry Sandusky in court in Bellefonte; AG given ultimatum

Jerry Sandusky exits the Centre County Courthouse after a hearing in Bellefonte on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015.
Jerry Sandusky exits the Centre County Courthouse after a hearing in Bellefonte on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. CDT photo

The hearing was about Jerry Sandusky. It ended with an ultimatum for Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland, specially presiding in Centre County over the former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator’s criminal case, came to Bellefonte to ask questions of both sides as they haggled over the issue of discovery in Sandusky’s petition under the state’s Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act. Sandusky was convicted of 45 child sex abuse charges in 2012.

But Cleland had a very specific message for the AG, whose office is embroiled in an ever-widening investigation of email leaks. Kane had her law license suspended and has been charged with obstruction.

For weeks, a stream of information has sputtered out of Kane’s office about the email issues, including those released Wednesday from Judge Barry Feudale, the jurist who presided over the grand jury that indicted Sandusky.

“Judge Feudale’s overriding concern was how to leak sealed Supreme Court documents without getting caught,” Kane said in a statement accompanying the release.

An article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday quoted Feudale saying that he did not know how the agency got his emails, as he did not give permission and he was told there was no subpoena.

Kane fired back, releasing the emails between Feudale and two Inquirer reporters.

“The seriousness of this reckless breach of sealed Supreme Court documents, orchestrated by the presiding judge of a state investigative grand jury, with attorneys and the very reporters who have covered some of the Sandusky, Computergate and Bonusgate cases, cannot be overstated. The OAG is currently litigating post-conviction motions involving these cases,” Kane said in her statement.

That left Cleland with questions, and he demanded answers.

After questioning Assistant AG Jennifer Peterson about the state’s position on Sandusky’s petition, namely opposing the defense’s request to conduct what she called a fishing expedition for new information, Cleland delivered a directive for her boss, demanding that she release the information.

“She shall specifically state who, what and how the information” was obtained by 10 a.m. Nov. 4, Cleland said, or she was directed to present herself at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center to testify behind closed doors.

“We intend to comply with Judge Cleland’s order,” Kane’s assistant press secretary Sadie Martin said in an email.

Sandusky’s attorneys have suggested that the scandals point to an overall corruption with the grand jury system that made it impossible for their client to have a fair trial.

Cleland issued no orders on the discovery issues but did question which laws would give him the permission to allow discovery in a process that usually relies only on already available information from trial. Defendants countered that there are no laws that specifically preclude the judge from allowing it.

The courthouse was full for Sandusky’s first appearance in Centre County since his 2012 sentencing. The crowd was largely media but also included members of the public, including a number of Sandusky supporters, some of them wearing blue-and-white buttons that said “Justice for Jerry.”

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