Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, on trial for allegedly sexually abusing several boys, sat and smiled as a state prosecutor made his final impression on the jury tasked with deciding his fate.
At the end of an hourlong closing argument, lead prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan left his position in front of the jury box and finished his remarks standing directly next to the defendant himself.
With Sandusky smiling, McGettigan told the jury: “He knows he did it, and you know he did it. Give him the justice he really deserves. Find him guilty of everything.”
As of press time Thursday, jurors were still deliberating on the 48 sex-abuse charges the state Attorney General’s Office has brought against the former coach.
The prosecution’s closing argument culminated seven days of testimony from more than 50 witnesses, eight of whom said Sandusky molested them when they were boys. The jury headed into deliberations after 1 p.m. on Thursday.
The eighth and final day of Sandusky’s trial brought perhaps the largest crowd to the Bellefonte, Pa., courtroom in Centre County since the trial started last Monday. Spectators packed the courtroom for the lawyers’ closing arguments. A flock of media members — awaiting word of a verdict — remained nearby after court was adjourned.
Earlier in the day, Sandusky’s attorney made his closing argument to the jury. During a 70-minute overture, Joseph L. Amendola said the three-year investigation of the ex-coach, and the dozens of charges to which it led, were all the result of “some sort of push” against Sandusky.
Amendola renewed themes he had emphasized in his opening statement last week — the accusers were money hungry, a key state witness assumed too much, and investigators targeted Sandusky with the goal of tarnishing his reputation.
He frequently reminded jurors to invoke their common sense when deciding the case and returned to the same phrase regarding the set of accusations on more than one occasion.
“It doesn’t add up,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
At times, Amendola shouted; at other times, his voice cracked. He continually emphasized what the defense has maintained since the state first announced charges against Sandusky in November: Jerry Sandusky is an innocent man.
If Sandusky had done what he’s been charged with, Amendola conceded toward the end of his argument, then he should “rot in jail for the rest of his life.”
“But what if he didn’t?” Amendola asked.
The lawyer said the whole case against Sandusky started with an allegation from an angry teenager, an 18-year-old known in court papers as Victim 1. By the time Sandusky stood trial more than three years later, there were seven more financially motivated accusers, he argued. They all had the goal of taking advantage of the ex-coach’s good will in the form of monetary gain against Penn State and Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, Amendola said.
Amendola also highlighted the fact that two Pennsylvania State Police officers offered contradictory testimony this week when asked if they had discussed their previous testimony.
He called the jury’s attention to a tape recording the defense played in open court earlier this week. In it, state police officers and a civil attorney for one of the coach’s accusers discussed how to compel the man to offer more details about Sandusky’s alleged attacks.
Apparently, they didn’t know the tape was rolling.
It was a stroke of luck for his client, Amendola said, possibly even karma for all the good he’s done.
“Maybe that man has an angel on his shoulder,” he said, pointing to Sandusky. “Because all he wanted to do was help those kids.”
Amendola also played off the allegedly inadequate oversight among Penn State officials that allegedly allowed Sandusky to continue his attacks. Namely, he asked, how could two high-ranking administrators of a university, its president and its legendary head coach let the recollection of former graduate assistant Mike McQueary stop at their desks, if McQueary conveyed what he told the jury last week?
McQueary testified in open court last Tuesday that he saw Sandusky rape a 10-year-old boy in a Penn State locker room in 2001.
According to Amendola, McQueary wasn’t a liar. He had just assumed too much.
That was proven by the decision of former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz (both of whom face criminal charges in connection with Sandusky’s alleged wrongdoing), who Amendola said simply told Sandusky not to bring children into university showers anymore.
“Is that consistent with someone saying I saw someone having anal sex with a child?” Amendola asked.
During the prosecution’s close, McGettigan corrected the alleged punishment.
Sandusky wasn’t banned from showering with boys at Penn State, the prosecutor said, he was prohibited from bringing them onto the campus.
Echoing his opening statement, McGettigan called Sandusky a “serial predatory pedophile” who had access to a pool of vulnerable children. Facing shame and humiliation, the accusers declined to come forward for years, McGettigan said.
Four accusers sat in the front two pews, in eyeshot of the jury, as McGettigan made his closing remarks. They were not in attendance for Amendola’s argument Thursday.
McGettigan told jurors the defense fit perfectly into a five-step formula the state had already hinted Sandusky would bring: Admit what you must, deny what you can, call everyone a liar, make counter-charges, allege a conspiracy.
But the conspiracy theory quickly falls apart, McGettigan said.
It doesn’t make sense that the kids were out for money, he said, when you combine that with the idea they were coached by authorities. The authorities had no incentive to go after Sandusky, he said.
“I don’t think troopers get raises for doing their job,” McGettigan said.
Earlier in the day Thursday, presiding Senior Judge John M. Cleland dismissed three of the 51 charges against Sandusky, leaving the jury with 48 to mull. He said one overlapped with another, and two other charges were not supported by the evidence presented.