Published March 11, 2013
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Jerry Sandusky's "major claims" as he appeals a conviction for child sexual abuse include the many years that went by before victims notified authorities, according to a pair of defense filings Monday.
Sandusky attorney Norris Gelman listed the failure to report — specifically, the judge's refusal to instruct jurors on the issue — as a critical element of the former Penn State assistant coach's effort to overturn the 45-count conviction.
Gelman also argued that the defense lawyers lacked sufficient time to prepare for the three-week trial last summer.
He revisited arguments were previously rejected by the judge who presided over the trial, Judge John Cleland. The new filings set the stage for formal appeals before Superior Court.
Sandusky, 69, is serving 30 to 60 years at a state prison in southwestern Pennsylvania for molesting boys over a period of several years in a case that brought down Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and led to sanctions against Penn State's storied football program.
Using their initials, Gelman listed the reporting delays by the eight young men who testified against Sandusky. He said only one of them reported the abuse promptly, while the others waited between four and 14 years.
"Reversible error was committed when the trial court refused the defense request to give jury instructions on the failure of the alleged victims to make a prompt complaint to authorities based on its view of 'the research' which led the court to believe that in the area of child sexual abuse such an instruction was not 'an accurate indicia of honesty and may be misleading,'" Gelman wrote.
The state attorney general's office, which prosecuted Sandusky, offered no immediate comment on the pair of filings — one made to Cleland and the other to Superior Court.
Jeff Anderson, a lawyer who represents two people with claims related to Sandusky, said the prompt complaint issue was unlikely to result in a new trial.
"I think it's a shallow and predictably made legal argument that has to be made, but it will effectively go nowhere," said Anderson, whose clients are not among the eight who testified at trial.
Gelman also said Cleland should have given Sandusky's attorneys more time to prepare for trial.
"No attorney should be forced to defend without basic preparation and time to integrate discovery material into a defense," Gelman wrote.
Other grounds include a prosecutor's reference during closing argument to Sandusky giving a television interview shortly after he was arrested.
Gelman said in an interview on Monday that the message to jurors was that Sandusky had spoken about the allegations on TV, but not in court.
"That's a body blow," Gelman said. "You just don't do that."
His new filings also argued Cleland erred by allowing hearsay testimony about a shower attack witnessed by a Penn State janitor.
Gelman said Monday that the next step is for Cleland to either stand by his previous ruling or issue a supplemental ruling.
After that, he said, Sandusky will file his appeal to Superior Court.