BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The defense in Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse trial rested on its third day Wednesday without calling the former Penn State assistant coach to refute charges that he molested boys at his home and on campus over more than a decade.
Closing arguments were set for today in the case that led to the dismissal of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno and the university president and a re-examination of college administrators’ role in reporting abuse charges.
The defense called only four new witnesses Wednesday, including a physician who tried to poke holes in the story of a former Penn State coach who testified that he saw Sandusky sexually assault a boy in the campus showers more than a decade ago.
The defense’s case has consisted of character witnesses who defended Sandusky’s reputation, a psychologist who said Sandusky had a personality disorder and the ex-coach’s wife, who said she did not see her husband do anything inappropriate with the accusers. His lawyers also tried to show that investigators had shared information with an accuser about other alleged victims’ stories and repeatedly suggested that accusers have financial motivations for their claims.
Sandusky was only heard from via an interview with NBC’s Bob Costas, saying he probably shouldn’t have showered with boys; and in letters he sent to one of his accusers.
Sandusky is charged with 51 criminal counts for the alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years.
One of the last witnesses called was Dr. Jonathan Dranov, a physician summoned to the home of Mike McQueary’s father in February 2001 to hear McQueary’s account of seeing Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the campus showers. The boy, known only as Victim 2, has never been identified and isn’t known to prosecutors.
Dranov testified that McQueary told of hearing “sexual sounds” and seeing a boy in the shower and then an arm reach around to pull him out of view. McQueary said he made eye contact with the boy, and Sandusky later emerged from the showers, Dranov said.
That account is different from what McQueary told a grand jury and testified at a preliminary hearing and a trial. He has said he saw Sandusky directly behind the boy’s back up against the walls of the showers, moving his midsection enough to convince McQueary it was a sex act.
Dranov told the jury that McQueary described hearing sounds he considered sexual in nature but did not provide him with a graphic description of what he saw.
“It just seemed to make him upset so I backed off that,” Dranov said.
Asked to describe McQueary’s demeanor, Dranov said: “His voice was trembling. His hands were shaking. He was visibly shaken.”
McQueary’s report to his superiors — and Penn State officials’ failure to go to outside law enforcement — is what ultimately led to the firing of Paterno, who died of cancer in January.
McQueary had testified earlier in the trial that he wasn’t “over-descriptive” in his conversation with Dranov, saying he told the doctor that what he saw was sexual, wrong and perverse.
The defense rested around lunchtime Wednesday. Judge John Cleland said jury instructions and closing arguments by the defense and then prosecution would take place this morning. If convicted, the 68-year-old former defensive coordinator could be sent to state prison for the rest of his life.
The seven days of testimony were far shorter than the three weeks or so that Cleland had predicted, as many of the 28 defense witnesses were there to briefly vouch for Sandusky’s reputation. Prosecutors called 22 witnesses, including eight young men, ages 18 to 28, who alleged a range of abuse from grooming, kissing and massaging to fondling, oral sex and anal rape.
David Hilton, who met Sandusky through a summer camp of his charity, testified Wednesday he felt like investigators were trying to coach him into accusing Sandusky.
“When it got to the second or third time I felt like they wanted me to say something that isn’t true,” he said.
The other witnesses Wednesday were a man who ran a golf event for the charity, who testified that McQueary may have participated in the event after the 2001 shower incident; and a Second Mile alum who praised Sandusky’s reputation and referred to him as a father figure.
Prosecutors allege that Sandusky met his alleged victims through The Second Mile, which once was lauded for its efforts to help at-risk children but now appears headed for closure as a result of the scandal.
Sandusky didn’t take the stand after his lawyer suggested in opening statements that he might and a day after his wife, Dottie, took the stand to tell jurors she never saw him act inappropriately with the accusers. In interviews Sandusky did shortly after his arrest in November, with the support and presence of defense attorney Joe Amendola, his responses were halting and uncertain, raising doubts about how he might stand up to cross-examination.
Jurors will now have to decide whether the defense was able to create sufficient doubt based on how the investigation was conducted, the reliability and motives of the accusers, and Sandusky’s decades-long reputation as a man who worked tirelessly to help underprivileged children.