Defense counsel for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky rested their case Wednesday without their client taking the stand. The move answered one of the trial’s most speculated-upon questions: whether the jury would hear the ex-coach deny the charges against him in his own words.
The defense started its third day, and the seventh day of the trial, with testimony from a family friend of former graduate assistant Mike McQueary who was with McQueary on the night he claims to have seen Sandusky rape a boy in a Penn State locker room shower in 2001. The witness, Dr. Jonathan Dranov, testified in open court that McQueary did not say he had seen sexual activity on that occasion.
Other witnesses included two men who met Sandusky through the ex-coach’s charity, The Second Mile, stayed at his house on several occasions and went to football games with him. They each said nothing inappropriate ever happened between either of them and the ex-coach.
After a morning recess that was extended for 45 minutes, presiding Senior Judge John M. Cleland said the evidentiary phase of the trial was complete. Cleland set closing arguments for today and told the jury to come prepared to be sequestered for deliberations.
For many trial-watchers, the defense attorneys’ decision to rest without Sandusky addressing the jury came as a surprise.
While it is the obligation of lead defense lawyer Joseph L. Amendola and his co-counsel, Karl Rominger, to advise their client, they may not “overrule” Sandusky’s right to testify in his own defense.
But they can’t force him to, either.
“The real question is whether there was a difference of opinion between the client and Mr. Amendola,” said Philadelphia-based criminal defense attorney Michael Engle.
“Amendola may have wanted or needed him to testify,” Engle said, “That decision is ultimately Mr. Sandusky’s alone.”
Earlier Wednesday, Dranov offered testimony that Amendola had hinted at in his opening statement.
Dranov said McQueary never expressly said he saw Sandusky rape a boy in the Lasch Building showers. Rather, Dranov said, the most McQueary was willing to say was that he heard it.
McQueary’s testimony last week was that he told his father and Dranov that he saw something “extremely sexual” between the former defensive coordinator and a young boy. McQueary also testified last week that Dranov was a “good man” whom he trusted.
Dranov recalled that McQueary’s only identification of sexual activity came as references to “slapping sounds.”
“Mike, what do you mean?” Dranov remembered asking him. But McQueary, who, Dranov recalled, was visibly shaken and trembling, kept coming back to the sounds.
“He couldn’t go on,” Dranov said. “He got more upset.”
Dranov noted that he advised McQueary to report the incident to his supervisor at the time, Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno.
“Although I don’t know that he needed that advice,” Dranov said.
Under cross-examination from lead prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan, Dranov said that McQueary was not the type of person who was easily shaken. But on that night, he was, Dranov added.
During closing arguments today, the defense may be expected to use Dranov’s testimony to question McQueary’s credibility.
But Engle, who is not involved in the case, said he did not know if the discrepancy between the accounts of the two men would be enough to sway the jury.
“Whether [McQueary] saw or heard things that gave him the impression that there were sexual acts going on in that shower, that testimony or difference in the testimony may not be enough to change the analysis of the jury,” Engle said. The “defense is clearly trying to say McQueary’s accounts are not consistent and therefore he is not credible.”
“They could just as easily reject that inconsistency as Dranov having the wrong impression,” he said.
Following Dranov’s testimony Wednesday, the defense called a man who helped coordinate golf outings for The Second Mile, the charity through which Sandusky allegedly met his victims.
Rominger had the witness, Hank Lesch, identify a list from June 2001 naming McQueary as a participant in a Second Mile golf outing. The list was dated some months after McQueary alleges he saw the shower attack.
A letter thanking him for participating in another Second Mile golf tournament, dated June 2003, and a picture showing McQueary at a golf function were also introduced.
Last week, McQueary said he was uncertain if he had participated in any Second Mile golf tournaments after the 2001 incident and was adamant that he avoided Sandusky at all costs.
McGettigan, on cross-examination, asked Lesch if Sandusky was in the photo of McQueary at the apparent Second Mile golf outing.
Lesch said he was not.
“So we have an undated picture, a letter to Mr. McQueary — not from him — with no return, and a couple of lists of people who may or may not have played,” McGettigan said rhetorically, asking no further questions.
Lesch told Rominger, however, that the letters only went to participants and McQueary’s was dated in 2003.
The defense also called two former participants in Sandusky’s Second Mile camp, who said they had several sleepovers at the coach’s house and that nothing inappropriate ever happened.
The second man to take the stand Wednesday, a 21-year-old from Lancaster County named David Hilton, told Rominger that police repeatedly asked him the same question while interviewing him about his relationship with the ex-coach. In his mind, he testified, it was in order to elicit a certain response.
On cross-examination, however, he conceded to McGettigan that he was never asked to say any particular thing.
Rather, as Hilton put it: “When they kept asking me [the same question], I felt like they wanted me to say something that wasn’t true.”