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Judge denied Sandusky's lawyers' request to resign

Saturday, June 23, 2012 | 6:12 p.m. CDT; updated 8:52 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 24, 2012
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, center, speaks outside the Centre County Courthouse after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years.

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky's lawyers said Saturday they asked to resign from his child sex abuse case on the eve of the trial but the judge turned them down.

Karl Rominger and Joe Amendola said that as jury selection began they made a sealed motion saying they had not been given enough time to adequately prepare, but Judge John Cleland ruled against them after discussion in his chambers.

"We told the trial court, the Superior Court and the Supreme Court we were not prepared to proceed to trial in June due to numerous issues, and we asked to withdraw from the case for those reasons," Amendola said.

Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted Friday on dozens of child sexual abuse charges. His lawyers had said a delay was needed because a key member of the defense team had a scheduling conflict and a lengthy grand jury investigation had inundated them with documents and other materials.

Legal experts say the seven months between Sandusky's arrest and trial on such serious charges is a fast pace by Pennsylvania standards.

Rominger also said Saturday that prosecutors told him June 14, during the trial's first week, that they obtained a tape of the allegations made by adopted son Matt Sandusky that he also was a victim of abuse by Sandusky. Rominger declined to comment on the details of those allegations but said calling him to the stand might have prompted a mistrial.

He said Matt Sandusky had been expected to be an important witness for the defense, and when such a defense witness becomes a prosecution witness, that can result in a mistrial. The Matt Sandusky evidence and potential testimony was why the prosecution's case was held open during a surprising day off from the trial June 15 and did not rest until Monday, he said.

Rominger said the lawyers did request a mistrial over the in court playing of a videotaped interview of their client by NBC's Bob Costas because it repeated a brief but significant section while Sandusky was speaking. Rominger said the judge denied the mistrial request, ordered it could not be played again and instead provided jurors with a written transcript.

Jurors in the two-week trial convicted Sandusky of 45 of the 48 counts against him. Mandatory minimums mean Sandusky, 68, likely will die in prison.

One of the jurors on Saturday said the credibility of the accusers who testified they were Sandusky's victims solidified the prosecution's case.

"It's hard to judge character on the stand because you don't know these kids," Joshua Harper told NBC's "Today" show. "But most were very credible — I would say all."

He added: "It was very convincing."

At the State College home of one juror, a retired soil sciences professor, his wife declined to comment. A mile away, a man said another juror, a dance teacher, was tired of discussing the case but might comment if she senses other jurors are speaking about their experiences.

After a swift trial and less than two days of deliberations, the jurors found Sandusky guilty on Friday, drawing raucous cheers from hundreds of onlookers outside the courthouse.

Sandusky's own impassivity as the verdict was read was a confirmation that the jury's decision was the right one, Harper said.

"I looked at him during the reading of the verdict and just the look on his face. No real emotion," he said.

Sandusky appeared to be accepting his fate, Harper said, "because he knew it was true."

The verdict is not the end of the scandal, which took down legendary head coach Joe Paterno and deeply shook the state's most prominent university. It will play out for years in courtrooms and through a set of ongoing investigations.

But the trial did present one piece of finality: Sandusky was taken away in handcuffs to the county jail. Sentencing will be in about three months.

Sandusky is one of 272 inmates at the Centre County Correctional Facility, 7 miles from the Penn State campus, and was kept under watch overnight. Rominger said he planned to visit Sandusky on Sunday.

Like other inmates at the jail, Sandusky was allowed to take a small number of items in with him. The options include six pairs of white underwear, white socks and white undershirts, prescription glasses or contact lenses, a wedding band, religious prayer book, no more than 10 personal photographs and 10 letters and no more than 4 inches of legal documents or materials.

Sandusky will be allowed to shower daily and can get visits from his family, friends and lawyers.

The jail did not say whether anyone had gone to see him Saturday. At his home, his wife and three of their adopted children remained inside after returning there Friday night. The window blinds and curtains were drawn.

For Sandusky, there were only three acquittals among the charges related to 10 victims, eight of whom took the stand to describe fondling, forced oral sex and anal rape. Many of the accusers testified that they had told no one of the abuse, which dated as far back as the mid-1990s.

The accuser known in court papers as Victim 6, whose mother alerted authorities in 1998 after Sandusky took him into a shower, broke down in tears upon hearing the verdicts in the courtroom.

The man, now 25, testified that Sandusky called himself the "tickle monster" in a shower assault. He declined to comment to a reporter afterward. His mother said: "Nobody wins. We've all lost."

One of the three counts for which Sandusky was acquitted concerned Victim 6, an indecent assault charge. The man testified that Sandusky had given him a bear hug in the shower.

The other acquittals were an indecent assault charge related to Victim 5, who said Sandusky fondled him in the shower, and an involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charge regarding Victim 2, the boy who graduate assistant Mike McQueary said he saw being attacked in a campus shower.

That charge resulted in an acquittal because McQueary did not see penetration, Harper said. But, Harper said, McQueary made it apparent he saw something "that was wrong and extremely sexual."

"We did not have the evidence that that very first charge happened," Harper said.

Amendola was interrupted by cheers from the crowd on the courthouse steps when he said, "The sentence that Jerry will receive will be a life sentence."

Besides the eight accusers who testified, there were two people for whom prosecutors relied on testimony from a university janitor and McQueary.

Sandusky did not take the stand in his own defense. Rominger said Saturday that factors behind that decision included the emergence of Matt Sandusky's claims to prosecutors.

The ex-assistant coach had repeatedly denied the allegations, and his defense suggested that his accusers had a financial motive to make up stories. His attorneys also painted him as the victim of overzealous police investigators who coached the accusers.

One accuser testified that Sandusky molested him in the locker room showers and in hotels while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips to bowl games. He also said Sandusky had sent him "creepy love letters."

Another spoke of forced oral sex and instances of rape in the basement of Sandusky's home, including abuse that left him bleeding. He said he once tried to scream for help, knowing that Sandusky's wife was upstairs, but figured the basement must be soundproof.

Another, a foster child, said Sandusky warned that he would never see his family again if he told anyone what happened.

Defense witnesses, including Dottie Sandusky, described Sandusky's philanthropic work with children over the years, and many spoke in positive terms about his reputation in the community. Prosecutors had portrayed those efforts as an effective means by which Sandusky could camouflage his molestation as he targeted boys who were the same age as participants in The Second Mile, a charity he founded in the 1970s for at-risk youth.

Sandusky's arrest in November led the Penn State trustees to fire Paterno as head coach, saying he exhibited a lack of leadership after fielding a report from McQueary. The scandal also led to the ouster of university President Graham Spanier and criminal charges against two university administrators accused of perjury and failing to properly report suspected child abuse.

The two administrators, athletic director Tim Curley and now-retired vice president Gary Schultz, are fighting the allegations and await trial.

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