Jerry Sandusky Scandal

County may move some court services out of Bellefonte during Sandusky trial

BELLEFONTE — Jerry Sandusky’s trial in June is expected to bring with it a number of logistical issues for Centre County court officials.

Parking probably will be hard to come by, as news trucks will likely take up spaces around the courthouse as they have for pretrial hearings.

People who have to go to the courthouse to check in with a probation officer or to file a protection-from-abuse order could be inconvenienced by the throng of reporters staked out in front of the courthouse.

Court cases won’t be heard in the main courtroom and will have to be moved elsewhere.

These potential interruptions have prompted local court officials to get approval from the state Supreme Court to offer some court services outside the county seat of Bellefonte.

The courthouse and its offices will remain open during the trial, but officials here want to offer the public alternative sites in case they would rather not deal with the expected crowd in town.

Jury selection is slated for June 5 with the trial to follow immediately after.

The Supreme Court’s approval, in a letter from Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille to county President Judge Thomas King Kistler last week, allows county court officials to arrange for “temporary courtrooms and temporary satellite offices” in State College and Penn State.

Exactly which services and where to offer them are still being determined. But the idea of using a courtroom on Penn State’s campus seems to be a strong option at this point, Kistler said.

Before implementing any of the arrangements, county court officials have to give notice to the state court, Castille said.

Castille took into consideration how Sandusky’s preliminary hearing in December affected the courthouse. Bellefonte officials closed West High and Allegheny streets around the courthouse, and officers from around the county assisted Bellefonte police on patrol. The hearing was the only court matter scheduled for that day, but court offices did remain open.

A likely temporary courtroom is the one in Penn State’s Lewis Katz Building, which houses the Dickinson School of Law at the University Park campus.

Kistler’s cases may be moved there, as his courtroom in the courthouse — the main one that has seating for more than 200 — will be used for Sandusky’s trial. Preliminary hearings and formal arraignments, held every Wednesday, also go on in the main courtroom, so those remain a contender to be moved off-site, too.

Penn State is willing to help the county, university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.

Spring classes and graduation will be over well before jury selection, so the interruption is likely to be minimal, Powers said.

The logistics, like public parking, security and assurances of no disruptions to student needs, will have to be worked out, both sides said.

“This is obviously an unprecedented situation for our county court system, and we certainly want to help alleviate the pressure on them,” Powers said.

The Katz Building courtroom has been used in the past for official court business. Last month, a session of Commonwealth Court was held there.

Centre County’s request to hold court cases and court services outside the county seat appears to be the first in recent memory in the state.

A spokesman for the state court system couldn’t find any information about the last time the request was made.

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