A Centre County judge has refused serial child abuser and former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s request to have his conviction thrown out.
Judge John Henry Foradora’s ruling Wednesday afternoon is the latest legal defeat for Sandusky in his bid for freedom. Sandusky is currently serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence.
He was convicted in 2012 on 45 of 48 counts related to sexually abusing numerous children. In August of last year, the Centre County Court of Common Pleas held a three-day hearing regarding Sandusky’s claims that his trial counsel had been ineffective and that he had been the subject of prosecutorial misconduct.
In his ruling Wednesday, Foradora said “the bulk of Sandusky’s claims are meritless.”
“The bulk of Sandusky’s claims pertain directly to counsels’ advocacy decisions, including steps they took or failed to take in preparation for trial,” Foradora said. “From the grand jury process through the judge’s final charge, he contends that counsel’s errors were so numerous and egregious as to warrant a new trial. Numerosity, however, does not create a presumption of merit; each claims must stand or fail independently.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro lauded the denial of a new trial to Sandusky.
“We achieved justice for the victims in this case and are confident that these convictions will continue to stand,” Shapiro said in a statement released Wednesday. “Hopefully, today’s decision will allow the victims of Mr. Sandusky to live their lives knowing that this serial sexual abuser will remain behind bars. We will continue to fight to defend the jury’s verdict. I have zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of children, and our office will pursue anyone who preys on children wherever we find them.”
Reached Wednesday, Sandusky’s lawyer, J. Andrew Salemme of the Lindsay Law Firm said, “Obviously we’re disappointed with the ruling and we disagree with it as well and we intend to appeal to the Superior Court very soon.”
Sandusky has 30 days to appeal Foradora’s ruling.
Foradora took over the case almost a year ago, when then-presiding Judge John Cleland recused himself. At the time, Cleland issued a sharp rebuke to Sandusky’s defense team for making “misleading” arguments.
In a strongly worded opinion issued Nov. 18, 2016, Cleland said that although his decision to step away from the case ”virtually invites the evils of ‘judge shopping,’” he had to recuse from the case because of claims by the defense that he acted unethically with regard to the waiver of Sandusky’s preliminary hearing.
Cleland also questioned the propriety of Sandusky’s counsel’s actions, writing that accusations against “attorneys, judges, jurors, investigators and victims” “is a form of advocacy that transcends the traditional boundaries of an honored profession.” The conduct, Cleland added, “should merit the attention of the Disciplinary Board.”
Sandusky’s counsel has suggested that Cleland “participated” in a nighttime meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn in State College regarding Sandusky’s preliminary hearing. Although Cleland said his only involvement was being told by both prosecutors and Sandusky’s trial counsel that an agreement to waive the hearing had been reached, he said he needed to remove himself from the case.
P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.