Many appeals are about the paperwork, about what has already happened in court to that point.
Jerry Sandusky’s Post Conviction Relief Act petition is not just about what happened with his 2012 trial for child sex abuse crimes. It’s also becoming about other prosecutions and the politics surrounding them.
In a hearing Monday in Bellefonte, Sandusky attorney Al Lindsay invoked two recent but related developments from elsewhere in the state.
The first was embattled Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s Montgomery County motion last week in which she asked to have charges against her dismissed due to “selective or vindictive prosecution.” Her rationale is that she is being charged with leaking grand jury information but that other leaks, like those alleged in the Sandusky grand jury, saw no prosecution.
It’s not the first time Kane has become a topic of conversation during Sandusky’s PCRA proceedings. Last year, McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland had the AG ordered to appear in a closed-door session to talk about leaks.
On Monday, after questioning and critiquing other arguments from Lindsay, Cleland made a suggestion and an offer: submit paperwork for a witness certification for Kane in the requested evidentiary hearing, and “I’ll give you 10 days.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” said Lindsay.
The previous closed-door discussions have caused Lindsay problems. Cleland asked him several questions about evidence and information hinted at in his most recent filing, 102 pages of witness certifications for everyone from Sandusky’s trial attorneys, Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger, to victims and counselors. The document detailed that many of the witnesses would be considered hostile and would have to have testimony compelled.
Cleland pushed for more, leading to a round-robin of frustrated responses from Lindsay and equally frustrated questions from the judge.
“I’m constrained because there is a seal,” Lindsay said. “I can’t talk about it with anyone.”
But the judge still wanted more, saying legally, he needed something more substantive.
You have to help me find a way out of the box.
McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland
“You have to help me find a way out of the box,” Cleland said.
When the prosecution took up its arguments, though, Cleland brought up another case, linking back to the Sandusky grand jury.
He invoked the office of the attorney general’s prosecution of former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley. Last week, state Solicitor General Bruce Castor recommended the OAG not pursue an appeal of the Superior Court verdict dismissing the perjury, obstruction and conspiracy counts against Spanier and Schultz, as well as obstruction and conspiracy against Curley.
The three men were charged in Dauphin County for crimes rising from testimony to the grand jury. Cleland pointed to Castor’s decision as an example of dismissing charges as a remedy.
The prosecution denied such impropriety exists in Sandusky’s case.
Lindsay disagreed, saying the more recent developments allow him to make arguments about grand jury impropriety that could not be made last year.
“I think the issues are very important issues,” Cleland said. “My problem is that I don’t know that you’ve got the witnesses to back it up.”
Cleland issued no order after the arguments, taking the issues under advisement. Despite the grilling, Lindsay remained confident.
“We’re going to call the witnesses,” he told reporters in a news conference. “We have never produced evidence like this for any PCRA and are not aware of any PCRA that has.”
The PCRA is one of Sandusky’s last hopes for a new trial. The former Penn State football defensive coordinator is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence at Greene state prison in Waynesburg after being found guilty of 45 of 48 counts of various child sex abuse crimes.
Jerry Sandusky is an innocent man, and this is a flawed prosecution.
Defense attorney Al Lindsay
“Jerry Sandusky is an innocent man, and this is a flawed prosecution,” Lindsay said.
Others were vocal in their dissent. Two men in masks like the activist group Anonymous repeatedly tried to disrupt the press conference and were escorted off the steps of the courthouse by sheriff’s deputies.
“Whatever you want to say about us,” Lindsay said, “we didn’t wear masks.”
Kane’s spokesman, Chuck Ardo, could not say whether Kane would respond.
“We don’t comment on hypotheticals,” he said. “We will review the subject if and when a decision is made on the attorney general’s status.”