Judge allows ex-Penn State coach visits with grandchildren

By Mark Shade

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A judge on Monday granted nearly all requests from former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, allowing 11 of his 14 grandchildren to visit him under house arrest and securing a local jury for his child sex abuse trial.

Judge John Cleland of Centre County Court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, also denied a prosecution effort to keep Sandusky within the walls of his State College home after a teacher at a neighboring elementary school complained he was standing on his deck, watching students on the playground.

Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 criminal counts stemming from accusations he molested 10 boys between 1994 and 2008. He has been confined to his home since December. The trial is set to start in May.

The judge deferred a decision on the remaining three grandchildren to a judge overseeing their parents' divorce, as their mother, Sandusky's daughter-in-law, objected to the request.

Sandusky's lawyer said in a statement the daughter-in-law had accused Sandusky of two incidents of abuse, at least one of which involved her 5-year-old son, but that county child welfare officials last month determined both allegations were unfounded.

Under Cleland's ruling, Sandusky is allowed to meet in his home with 11 of his 14 grandchildren.

The judge granted Sandusky permission for other forms of contact, such as telephone calls and electronic communication like email and Skype, with all 14 grandchildren.

Weighing the elementary school's concerns as well as complaints by neighbors that Sandusky was in his driveway shoveling snow, the judge ruled the prosecution's request to keep him indoors rather than simply on his own property was not warranted.

"No evidence was presented that at any time the defendant made any effort to contact any of the children by signaling or calling to them or that he made any gestures directed toward them or that he acted in an inappropriate way whatsoever," the judge ruled.

"The generalized concerns of parents, while understandable, cannot justify additional bail restrictions."

In 30 pages of rulings issued on Monday, Cleland also allowed Sandusky to travel to the office of his lawyer, Joe Amendola, to prepare his defense, as long as he provides at least 36 hours notice to the court.

Sandusky was partially successful in his effort to learn more about witnesses against him. The judge ruled the prosecution must provide the time, date, location and accuser's age at the time of any alleged offense but not the particular acts Sandusky is accused of committing or the names, addresses and ages of witnesses.

Cleland denied a prosecution request for a jury made up of people from outside Centre County, home of Penn State. The prosecution had argued that a jury made up of local residents would place the case in "peril" because they are too emotionally and financially intertwined with the university. The judge said he was convinced a fair jury could be selected.

(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman)