Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Jerry Sandusky Case: What are the appropriate questions?

With false accusations of sex-related crimes running rampant in our country, it often becomes difficult to ascertain what the truth might be when someone makes an accusation that might be credible -- or could be a lie. It becomes even more difficult when the person accused is well-known and admired.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is reporting that a grand jury there is looking into allegations that Jerry Sandusky, the legendary assistant coach who worked with Joe Paterno at Penn State until retirement in 1999, sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy. Here is what was said on the Huffington Post today:
Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator known for his charitable work helping at-risk children, is being investigated by a state grand jury on allegations he indecently assaulted a teenage boy, a newspaper reported.

Sandusky has not been charged. A grand jury examines accusations to determine if evidence warrants filing charges.

A message left by The Associated Press at a number listed for Sandusky in State College was not immediately returned. His lawyer, Joseph Amendola, said in a statement that Sandusky maintained his innocence and was disappointed the newspaper published a story "prior to any determination by the Attorney General's Office that he did anything inappropriate at all."

"While Jerry has been aware of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General's Office for many months dating back to 2009, he has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout this ordeal," Amendola said.

The Patriot-News in Harrisburg reported Thursday that it spoke to five anonymous sources with knowledge of the case who say a grand jury has been meeting in Harrisburg for 18 months to hear allegations made by a 15-year-old boy in 2009.

The paper reported the teen told authorities that there was inappropriate contact over a four-year period.
The Patriot-News also reported this:
Two months ago, state police at Rockview in Centre County began calling witnesses to a May 1998 report by Penn State University police detailing an earlier allegation of inappropriate contact against Sandusky by another boy.

According to several sources, that boy, who was 12 at the time, alleged he and Sandusky were showering in the football building on Penn State’s campus when the incident took place.

The boy’s mother told The Patriot-News she was specifically instructed by state police at Rockview not to speak with a reporter. Her name is being withheld by The Patriot-News to protect the identity of her son.

No charges were ever filed against Sandusky.

According to sources close to the investigation, the boy told police in 1998 that Sandusky had showered with him in a locker room of the Lasch Building — home to the football program — during a tour. The boy claimed Sandusky washed his body during the shower, sources said.

As part of the May 1998 investigation, police had the boy’s mother call Sandusky to her State College home and confront him while they hid in another room, according to sources.

Another boy, now an adult in the armed forces, was named as a witness in the 1998 Penn State police report and has been contacted by state police, his wife confirmed.
All of this sounds quite damning, yet as one who is familiar with how the police work in such cases, this information might provide real evidence that Sandusky is a child molester -- or it could be absolutely meaningless. Unfortunately, as I read some of the comments made by readers of the articles, it seems that they have seen absolute proof of his guilt.

Let me explain a parallel case, that being the charges against Michael Rasmussen. Like Sandusky, Michael has more than one person making accusations. However, as one looks closely at who is accusing Michael and the context of those accusations, one finds that there absolutely is no evidence except what three people are claiming.

Furthermore, as one examines EACH of the accusations, it is not hard to see that they are questionable, and when the case comes to trial, we will find that the prosecution's "slam dunk" witnesses are going to be stumbling over a lot of facts that will be put in front of them. As I see it, the fact that there are multiple accusers in the end will make the case even weaker as the defense exposes the contacts between them. For example, Apryl has claimed that she had not had any contact with Scott Monroe, another accuser.

However, it will not be difficult for the defense to establish that there was contact and planning between them. When that happens, the defense also will have demonstrated that Apryl committed a felony by making false statements and then lying on top of them. (Prosecutors already have told Apryl that this will be an easy case, and that she will only be on the stand for a short time. So, they have lied to her as well. This should be interesting.)

Likewise, there were multiple accusers in the Tonya Craft case, and they crashed and burned, especially when it became obvious that they had been coached, and when Sandra Lamb's daughter actually recited lines from the movies in which she acted. So, I cannot say that two accusers against Sandusky actually means anything.

I do find it interesting, however, that the police are doing what seems to be a careful investigation, unlike what we saw with Tonya Craft, the Jacobson child, Michael Rasmussen, and James Combs. In those cases, the police decided on the front end that the accused were guilty and that their job was to find a way to hammer square pegs of evidence into the round holes of truth.

It is obvious to me that the police are being careful because if they are seen trying to railroad someone as prominent as Jerry Sandusky, then they are going to be scrutinized in every other sex-assault case they have investigated. Likewise, prosecutors will come under the kind of scrutiny that the press and others rarely give them if they are seen to try to fabricate evidence against one of the most respected sports figures in Pennsylvania.

Now, I cannot say in this post that Jerry Sandusky is guilty of anything. In the accusation from more than a decade ago, police tried to trick him into making a self-incriminating statement, and their scheme fell apart. (That is why I say that just because someone accused him of sexual assault more than 10 years ago might very well mean absolutely nothing.)

Nor can I say I believe the guy is innocent. I don't know, and right now I have no idea about what the investigation is doing, what people are saying, and if there is evidence beyond the "he said, he said" nature of this case. If a number of other young men come forward and make similar claims -- claims, I might add, that could be demonstrated to be credible -- then things might become much more difficult for Sandusky.

Here is the problem in a nutshell: the law permits sexual-assault-molestation cases to go to trial simply on the word of an accuser. No physical evidence is necessary. (I don't know the details of Pennsylvania law, but when the federal government became involved in this area through the Mondale Act, one of the provisions was that states change their law to eliminate the need for physical evidence or anything else besides an accuser's words. I suspect that Pennsylvania has fallen into line.)

I'm extremely wary of cases that are built upon someone's accusation, and especially someone who would stand to gain money (should a jury convict) through a lawsuit. I would be curious to know if any of the accusing parties have approached Sandusky or the organization he represents to demand money. Maybe that has not happened, but in other cases, we do find money to be a powerful motivator.

I know nothing about Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola. He might be an excellent attorney, someone who is well-versed in these kinds of cases, or he might be a friend who has handled other matters for Sandusky and has been called upon for this case as well. The important thing here is that if Amendola is NOT experienced in dealing with sexual assault accusation cases, or if he is not familiar with the reasons that such cases are very, very different from other kinds of criminal cases, then Sandusky could be in serious trouble, even if he is innocent.

Jerry Sandusky's fame and reputation have served as a check upon the authorities in Pennsylvania to throw together a slipshod case in hopes of scoring a quick and easy victory. Nonetheless, here is a man whose reputation forever is stained, and if he is innocent and the accusations false, may those who accused him be forced to pay dearly. If the accusers are telling the truth, then I would hope the law would deal properly with him. We shall see.

5 comments:

Doc Ellis said...

Greetings Dr Anderson,

Shared

Thank you for writing this

Doc Ellis 124

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that it has to happen this way, but in many cases, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Cinderalla said...

Jerry and his wife have been helping foster childern for over 30years! Back in the late 70's when Penn State was winning national championships, it was hard to know who to cheer for because if Penn State won a bonus for Jerry meant they could get another foster kid. (I was a married to a cousin,etc).
This just sickens me!

obpopulus said...

And if Mr. Sandusky was referred to as Father Sandusky, would you still be making the same argument?

Anonymous said...

Taking a shower with a boy who is 11and washing him all over, as he admitted to, is not boundary issues.the guy is a predator as anyone with experience in this area will tell you. The guy is a creeper.