By Mark Scolforo
BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky's lawyers argued Thursday that he deserves a new trial because his defense lacked sufficient time to prepare for the first one, but the judge did not immediately rule after an hour-and-a-half hearing.
Attorneys for the former Penn State assistant football coach cited several alleged flaws in the trial, including that they were swamped by about 12,000 pages of documents and other materials, that Judge John Cleland should have instructed jurors about the years it took for victims to report he had abused them and that hearsay evidence was improperly allowed.
But prosecutors countered by showing most of the documents and records were not relevant to trial. They also got defense attorney Joe Amendola to admit that even after reviewing them after trial he did not find any that he would have used at trial.
"Where's the harm?" Cleland asked defense lawyer Norris Gelman. "That's where I'm hung up on this one."
Prosecutor Frank Fina told Cleland that the issue of "failure to report" by the victims was a major theme during the trial. It was brought up during both parties' opening statements and closing arguments and during cross-examination of the eight victims who testified against Sandusky, he said.
He said Amendola's performance at trial, and his questioning of witnesses, are evidence that a fair trial took place even though the case moved from arrest to verdict in about eight months.
"He used everything he had to cross-examine these young men," Fina said.
Gelman noted that some of the victims waited more than a decade to disclose their abuse.
"This is a long, long time not to make some kind of report ... and it goes to their credibility," Gelman said.
But Amendola, who testified Thursday, said the timetable did not permit sufficient investigation into the accusers' backgrounds. He also described a scramble to cope with a string of pretrial hearings while trying to adequately analyze the discovery materials. At one point his copier even broke down.
"Did we look at the material? Yes, we glanced over it," he said under questioning by Gelman.
Amendola recounted how he and co-counsel Karl Rominger sought unsuccessfully to be taken off the case, evidence of their frustration over how quickly things were moving.
Sandusky, 68, attended the hearing but played no active role in the proceedings. He briefly greeted his wife and supporters beforehand.
Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence at a state prison about 200 miles away from the courthouse in Bellefonte. He has maintained his innocence.
Cleland did not indicate when he might rule. If Sandusky does not get a new trial — he is also asking to have charges thrown out entirely — he can then appeal to Superior Court, and has indicated he will.
Sandusky's arrest tarnished the university's vaunted football program and led to the firing of longtime coach Joe Paterno, who died nearly a year ago from lung cancer.
After the hearing, Gelman compared Sandusky's odds to a 3-point shot in basketball, while Fina downplayed the defense's chances of success.
"I think the people of Pennsylvania can be confident this conviction is going to stand," Fina told reporters.