By Steve Kallas
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This morning, Jerry Sandusky decided to waive his right to a preliminary hearing in a case in which he is charged with some 50 counts of sexual abuse-related crimes. After a three-minute appearance inside a courtroom in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania before Judge Robert Scott, the real fireworks started outside the courtroom as over 200 members of the media listened to Joseph Amendola, Sandusky’s lead defense attorney, essentially try his case in the press.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THOSE THREE MINUTES?
Well, according to Joseph Amendola, Jerry Sandusky decided to waive his right to a preliminary hearing after obtaining some concessions from the prosecution (with respect to keeping bail as is, with respect to receiving discovery earlier than required by law and with respect to not hauling Sandusky out of his house in handcuffs (as they did last week) if there are additional charges). In addition, Amendola made it very clear that he would not be allowed to ask questions relating to the credibility of the various witnesses (apparently prosecutors had 11 witnesses there to possibly testify today) and, thus, it, essentially, wouldn’t be a fair fight.
According to Amendola, Jerry Sandusky did plead not guilty (today) to the charges, will not be at his own arraignment on Januray 11, 2012, and is looking forward to his day in court.
WHAT HAPPENED OUTSIDE THE COURTROOM?
While there was nothing that Joseph Amendola could have done today inside a courtroom to really help his client, he made a bold effort outside the courtroom to change the perception of a man who is innocent until proven guilty but has already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.
Joseph Amendola is clearly a man who relishes the spotlight and is enjoying what might very well be his own 15 minutes of fame. Having said that, and despite the hole that most of us think he (and his client) is in, he’s coming out swinging, desperately trying to change the view of his client in the court of public opinion (that, of course, includes the potential members of the jury pool for Sandusky’s trial).
Amendola spoke at length (“this is a fight to the death”) and then took numerous questions from the media, cracking jokes at times and, again, relishing the moment where he was clearly the center of attention. While, often times, defense lawyers will simply state that they are not going to try their case in the media, clearly Joseph Amendola decided to go in the opposite direction.
DID HE ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING POSITIVE FOR HIS CLIENT?
Well, that remains to be seen. He did correctly state that the overwhelming majority of reports on this case have referred to “victims” as opposed to alleged victims or accusers. He also, curiously to this writer, discussed at length the new allegations about Mike McQueary and his credibility (that is, McQueary, the assistant who apparently testified that, in 2002, he saw Sandusky having anal intercourse with a boy who looked about 10 years old in a Penn State shower, may have made other inconsistent statements relating to that episode).
In any event, it is very unusual for a lawyer to hold a press conference and essentially lay out part of his defense. Indeed, according to Amendola, he believes that if this part of the case (McQueary’s testimony) is in question, other parts of the case will be in question as well.
WHAT ABOUT THE CIVIL LAWSUITS?
Well, Joseph Amendola spelled out for the press the fact that he will pound any witness (alleged victim) who is already suing Jerry Sandusky in a civil proceeding, obviously hoping that the jury will believe that the alleged victim is making it all up just to make some money.
But there are a lot of problems with that. It would actually be helpful to the criminal defense if all of the victims had filed civil lawsuits against Jerry Sandusky BEFORE his criminal trial starts. Thus, the old “Aren’t you doing this just for the money” question could be asked of all of the witnesses who are suing Sandusky.
But it says here that, if anything, announcing this on the courtroom steps may give civil lawyers pause before filing their lawsuits. And that could really hurt Jerry Sandusky at trial. You see, if Sandusky is convicted, and you really didn’t hear anything today that makes you think he won’t be given the number of accusers and Sandusky’s terrible performance with Bob Costas (another questionable, to be kind, tactic by Sandusky and Amendola), the civil cases against him will be virtually a slam dunk.
So, it will probably be better for the civil cases to wait for the result of the criminal case. Of course, at least one civil case has been filed by one of the victims against Sandusky, Penn State and the charity Second Mile. Obviously, the deep pockets in that case are Penn State and Second Mile. If Jerry Sandusky isn’t bankrupt after all of this (win or lose), well, that would be a surprising result.
Well, it’s hard to believe that Joseph Amendola changed anybody’s mind about the guilt or innocence of Jerry Sandusky by holding a press conference on the courthouse steps. Indeed, by letting Jerry Sandusky talk to the press in at least two instances (Bob Costas and the New York Times), he allowed his client to say a few things that might come back to haunt Sandusky at trial.
By telling everybody part of his trial strategy (McQueary potential inconsistencies, accusing accusers of doing this just for money), he gave the prosecution a partial blueprint of his defense (which the prosecution was probably already aware of but is still helpful to the prosecution), something that very few lawyers would do prior to trying the case. Indeed, one would think that other alleged victims might now not file a civil suit before the trial, something that will definitely hurt Jerry Sandusky.
At the end of the day, not a lot of good was done for Jerry Sandusky by his lawyer.
Jerry Sandusky’s arraignment is scheduled for January 11, 2012.