Jerry Sandusky will not get a new trial.
Jefferson County President Judge John Foradora’s decision to dismiss the Post-conviction Collateral Relief Act petition was announced Wednesday.
It came after attorneys petitioned for a last-minute addition of evidence.
Sandusky, the retired Penn State football defensive coordinator convicted in 2012 of 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse crimes, has been in the midst of the PCRA petition for years. The final decision came after months of evidentiary hearings and motions and two judges.
Sandusky’s attorneys, Al Lindsay and Andrew Salemme, argued multiple reasons for a new trial or dismissed charges, including grand jury leaks and incompetence of trial counsel Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger.
Foradora dismissed all of them.
As to the leaks, he placed that decision in the hands of Judge John Cleland, who recused himself from the case in November 2016 after hearing many oral arguments and some testimony and presiding over the trial phase.
“Judge Cleland did not permit the defendant to call Sarah (sic) Ganim ... and ultimately dismissed the issue with the promise of a forthcoming opinion,” Foradora wrote.
CNN’s Ganim, a former Centre Daily Times reporter who covered the case for the Patriot-News, published information Sandusky’s attorneys say came from leaks that tainted the accounts of nine victims who came forward later.
While Cleland did not offer an opinion before recusing himself, Foradora did not overrule the dismissal, and said that “evidence reveals that there is no merit to the underlying claim of prosecutorial misconduct.”
Foradora also supported decisions made by Amendola during the trial phase, including not quashing motions or testimony and allowing the Bob Costas interview many found damning due to a long pause when the NBC journalist asked about sexual attraction.
“...His attorney certainly could not anticipate that the same man who had repeatedly affirmed ‘I am not a child molester. I have never molested children. I love children. I have devoted half my adulthood to helping kids,’ would freeze when asked whether he was attracted to young boys,” the judge wrote.
He called the decision “informed by the realization that public opinion of Sandusky was more negative and pervasive than he thought.”
He likewise dismissed claims about Amendola’s advice to waive preliminary hearing, failure to conduct pretrial interviews, Cleland’s decision not to allow Amendola and Rominger to resign, and opening remarks from Amendola that included, “The commonwealth has overwhelming evidence against Mr. Sandusky.”
Attorney General Josh Shapiro was not the top prosecutor when the case was tried, but he stood by the office’s work and approved of the judge’s decision.
“We achieved justice for the victims in this case and are confident that these convictions will continue to stand. Hopefully, today’s decision will allow the victims of Mr. Sandusky to live their lives knowing that this serial sexual abuser will remain behind bars. We will continue to fight to defend the jury’s verdict. I have zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of children, and our office will pursue anyone who preys on children wherever we find them,” he said in a statement.
Sandusky is serving a 30-to-60-year sentence at Somerset state prison. He maintains his innocence.
He has 30 days to appeal Foradora’s order, according to court documents. That is going to happen.
“We are of course disappointed with the result and don’t necessarily agree with the court’s decision. Nonetheless, we are willing to abide by the legal process and we intend to continue to go through the legal process to further our cause. His conviction was followed by a number of civil suits and other criminal cases,” said Sandusky’s attorneys in a statement.
Lindsay and Salemme say they took the case because they believed in Sandusky’s “absolute innocence,” and that they were committed to the Sandusky family until “justice is obtained.”
“We intend to file an appeal with the Superior Court at our earliest convenience. We are confident that we will ultimately prevail in this case and we are willing to take any step, file any legal petition and litigate any matter to get that result,” they said. “The court’s decision is not the end of Jerry’s case, it is only the closing of a chapter which we need to go through in the course of our endeavor to obtain a new trial, a reversal of his conviction, and ultimately his release and vindication.”
Penn State paid out $93 million in settlements to 33 people claiming abuse. The criminal case involved just 10 victims. The university was also pulled into legal issues with the family of late football coach Joe Paterno, who was fired over the scandal; the NCAA; its liability insurer; fired president Graham Spanier; whistleblower assistant coach Mike McQueary; and Sandusky’s now-defunct children’s charity, The Second Mile.
Spanier was convicted of one count of misdemeanor child endangerment in March after a trial that included testimony from former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz, both of whom entered guilty pleas to the same charge two weeks earlier. Curley and Schultz are now on house arrest. Spanier is appealing his conviction.