BELLEFONTE — The attorney for Jerry Sandusky is again asking the judge to throw out the charges, this time less than three weeks before the case that has garnered national attention is scheduled to go to trial here in Centre County.
As Joe Amendola has maintained for months, he argued the allegations against his client are too vague. He also argued to toss the charges that stemmed from allegations of sexual abuse in which the alleged victims aren’t known.
The written arguments were in motions in limine filed Wednesday. If an attorney raises an issue in a motion in limine before trial and is denied by the judge, the attorney can appeal the issue after trial.
The motions were filed before Amendola met Wednesday with the judge overseeing the case, John Cleland, and prosecutors Joseph E. McGettigan III, Jonelle Eshbach and Frank Fina for more than two hours in the Centre County Courthouse. It was a closed-door session.
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Prosecutors have said they’ve been as specific about the charges as they can be. They can’t provide anything more specific about the times or dates of the locations of alleged abuse than what they’ve already given to the defense. Earlier this year, they gave the defense a revised version of the year span, saying the alleged abuse happened between 1996 and 2009, not 1994 and 2009.
Amendola has said he can’t possibly account for every day of Sandusky’s life during those years and therefore can’t adequately prepare for trial.
Amendola takes issue with the charges that do have a fixed date — the incident that Mike McQueary testified he saw Sandusky in an “extremely sexual” situation with a young boy in the Lasch Building shower room. It was determined to have been on Feb. 9, 2001, and the boy has been referred to as alleged victim No. 2.
In his filing, Amendola argued that McQueary’s testimony can’t sustain the charges.
Amendola also contested the charges stemming from a Penn State police investigated in 1998. He’s saying prosecutors can’t show there was anything sexual about that encounter, about which Sandusky said on national TV that he showered naked with a young boy after a workout.
Amendola also argued that the charges stemming from another shower incident in 2000 won’t stand up in court because the witness, a janitor, isn’t capable of testifying.
Criminal defense expert Jules Epstein, an associate professor at Widener University’s law school, said Amendola could be “preserving” certain issues that can be brought up on appeals if they’re denied before trial.
“A good lawyer will always identify problem issues and file motions in limine,” he said.
Epstein said raising something in a motion in limine helps establish ground rules before trial.
“You might win the ruling and therefore be in a better strategic position at trial,” he said. “If you lose, you know definitely how the trial will occur.”
Judge Cleland still has not ruled on the defense’s motion to delay the trial, which Amendola made last week.
The nature of the pre-trial conference on Wednesday with Amendola, the prosecutors and the judge wasn’t known. Cleland issued a gag order last month that prohibits attorneys from commenting to the media.
The prosecutors left the courthouse a little after 12:30 p.m. and declined to answer questions. Eshbach made a hand motion that her lips were zipped.
Amendola left a few minutes later, carrying a large stack of papers. He joked briefly with reporters but declined to answer questions, citing the gag order.
Amendola filed a number of other requests on Wednesday:
He wants the judge to make prosecutors give him a written statement of any alleged criminal activity that hasn’t resulted in charges.
He’s asked the judge to order that AT&T and T-Mobile turn over phone records. Amendola is trying to see if the young men had communicated with one another during the grand jury investigation, and he wants to see if their phone and text message records show that.
He also asked to use a juror questionnaire during jury selection instead of voir dire, which would consist of attorneys questioning potential jurors to see if they can be impartial to hear the case.
He wants Judge Cleland to ask the grand jury judge to release grand jury testimony 30 days before trial. Currently, the defense is set to get transcripts 10 days before trial.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT