Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky leaves the courthouse Tuesday with his wife, Dottie Sandusky, after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing in Bellefonte, Pa. Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing at least 11 boys, many of whom were prepared to testify Tuesday before Sandusky shockingly waived the hearing and asked for a trial.
BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A lawyer for a former Penn State assistant football coach accused of molesting boys said Tuesday he didn't mean to refer to a gay sex phone line when he said anyone who believes university officials thought his client raped a 10-year-old boy and did little about it should call 1-800-REALITY.
The phrase is one attorney Joseph Amendola says he has used for years to mean "get a life," but the phone number is that of a sex line for gay and bi-curious men.
Amendola's quip came Tuesday after his client Jerry Sandusky stunned a packed courtroom and backed out of a preliminary hearing at the last minute, avoiding a face-to-face confrontation with accusers who the lawyer said were just trying to cash in by making up stories of child sex abuse. The remark outraged some of the accusers and advocates for victims of abuse and created a huge stir online.
Amendola, during his lengthy comments to reporters outside the courthouse, said that if former Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary had witnessed a 10-year-old boy being sexually assaulted in a campus shower and had told the head football coach, the athletic director, a university vice president and the university president and "their response was simply to tell Jerry Sandusky that 'Don't go into the shower anymore with kids,' I suggest you dial 1-800-REALITY because that makes absolutely no sense."
He later said he has been using the remark "when people have said things that make no sense."
"It's analogous to 'get a life,'" he said. "I had no idea that was a real number, let alone what it actually is. I will not be using that line in the future!"
Earlier, Sandusky, who has acknowledged showering with boys but says he never molested them and has pleaded not guilty, vowed to "stay the course, to fight for four quarters."
Amendola then took the defense to the courthouse steps and spoke before dozens of news cameras for an hour, saying some of the 10 men who accuse Sandusky of molesting them as children were only out to profit from civil lawsuits against his client and the university.
A prosecutor said about 11 witnesses, most of them who claim to be victims, were ready to testify at the hearing.
An attorney for one called Sandusky a "coward" for not hearing his accusers' testimony and derided the arguments that they were out for money, saying many were too old to sue Sandusky under Pennsylvania's statute of limitations.
"It makes my blood boil," said Harrisburg lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who read a statement by his client, identified in a grand jury report as Victim 4, who was said to have become a fixture in the Sandusky household. "All the money in the world isn't going to bring them back to where they were before the sexual assaults."
Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts for what a grand jury called a series of sexual assaults and abuse of 10 boys dating back to the 1990s, in hotel swimming pools, in the basement of his home in State College, where the university is based, and in the locker room showers at the university, where he coached football until his retirement in 1999.
The charges devastated the university and its storied football program and led to the departures of coach Joe Paterno and the university's president and charges against the athletic director and the vice president, who are accused of lying to a grand jury and failing to report the abuse allegations.
Amendola told reporters Tuesday that Sandusky, 67, is an emotional, physical man -- "a loving guy, an affectionate guy" -- who never did anything illegal. He likened Sandusky's behavior to his own Italian family in which "everybody hugged and kissed each other."
The lawyer claimed the accusers were seeking to cash in through false accusations and said the preliminary hearing would not have allowed him to delve into the witnesses' credibility.
Amendola said he decided to waive the preliminary hearing late Monday after concluding that the evidence would be one-sided and after prosecutors agreed to give early warning of any further charges and to keep Sandusky's bail at $250,000.
A spokesman for the prosecutors said Sandusky's bail conditions were adequate but made no other promises.
"Sandusky waived his rights today. We waived nothing," said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.
Amendola and state prosecutors confirmed that no one had started plea bargain talks.
"There will be no plea negotiations," Amendola said. "This is a fight to the death."
Sandusky also waived a January arraignment and requested a jury trial, his lawyer said. A pretrial conference was set for March.
Senior deputy attorney general E. Marc Costanzo said if Sandusky "wants to change his mind at the last minute, that's his prerogative."
Veteran Pittsburgh defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said waiving the hearing was not surprising -- because the prosecution's burden of proof is much lower than at trial and because the longer a witness waits to testify the more cynical a jury might be.
"It's like, 'Why didn't you tell anybody about that sooner?'" Thomassey said. "That's why I want them to answer my hard question for the first time in front of a jury."
Some lawyers for accusers said they were disappointed they didn't testify after steeling themselves to face Sandusky.
"It would have been apparent from watching those boys and their demeanor that they were telling the truth," said Howard Janet, a lawyer for a boy whose mother contacted police in 1998 and said her son had showered with Sandusky.
Sandusky was accompanied to court by his wife, Dottie Sandusky, some of their adopted children and alumni of The Second Mile, a charity that he founded in 1977 to help struggling children. The grand jury report said he used the charity to meet and lure victims.
The first known abuse allegation was in 1998, when the mother told police Sandusky had showered with her son.
Accusations surfaced again in 2002, when McQueary reported an abuse allegation to Paterno and other university officials.
The grand jury probe began only in 2009, after a teen complained that Sandusky, then a volunteer coach at his high school, had abused him.
The teen told the grand jury that Sandusky first groomed him with gifts and trips in 2006 and 2007, then sexually assaulted him more than 20 times in 2008 through early 2009.
Amendola on Tuesday attacked McQueary by citing a Sunday report in Harrisburg's The Patriot-News newspaper that claimed he changed his story when speaking to a family friend. The defense attorney said McQueary's conflicting account would derail the prosecution.
"McQueary was always the centerpiece of the prosecution's case," he said.
The newspaper report cited a source said to be familiar with the testimony of the family friend, Dr. Jonathan Dranov.
The Associated Press was unable to reach Dranov at his home and office for comment. No one answered the door at McQueary's home Tuesday. His father declined to comment.
Lawyers for Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz issued a joint statement Tuesday about the newspaper report.
"If this information is true, and we believe it is, it would be powerful, exculpatory evidence and the charges against our clients should be dismissed," said the lawyers, Thomas Farrell and Caroline Roberto.
Curley and Schultz face preliminary hearings on Friday in Harrisburg. They have denied the allegations against them. Curley was placed on leave and Schultz returned to retirement in the wake of their arrests.
Meanwhile, officials at another Pennsylvania school said Tuesday that Sandusky insinuated himself into the school's football program last year, despite being denied an official position because he failed a background check.
Sandusky had sought a volunteer coaching position at Juniata College in May 2010, more than a year after a high school where he volunteered began investigating his contact with a student there.
Sandusky attended Juniata practices and games despite the athletic director's directives to the then-head coach that Sandusky couldn't associate with the team, school spokesman John Wall said.