By Peter Hall,, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) –
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A judge ruled Jerry Sandusky can see his grandchildren and friends while he is on house arrest awaiting trial on child sex abuse charges.
The former Penn State assistant football coach will also be allowed to leave home to help his attorneys build his defense, Judge John M. Cleland ruled Monday morning.
And the judge denied a request by prosecutors to keep the former Penn State coach within the walls of his home amid a flurry of complaints from neighbors that he was watching children on a nearby school playground.
“The generalized concerns of parents, while understandable, cannot justify additional bail restrictions in the absence of some evidence from the commonwealth that the defendant’s presence or behavior on his deck presents a danger to the community,” Cleland wrote.
The decisions came after court arguments Friday on the terms of Sandusky’s bail and other issues prosecutors and Sandusky’s lawyers raised in preparation for a trial scheduled to begin May 14.
Cleland also denied a request by the state Attorney General’s Office to bring in jurors from outside Centre County, Pa., where Sandusky lives, to ensure lawyers can pick an impartial jury.
The judge wrote that while prosecutors raised valid points about the close community ties with Penn State University, where Sandusky coached for decades, and his charity for disadvantaged children, which plays a central role in the abuse allegations, they failed prove a real danger of bias among jurors.
Sandusky testified Friday that he agrees with his lawyers’ decision to try the case before a jury of Centre County residents.
Following the hearing Friday, Sandusky told reporters he has been deeply saddened by his inability to see his grandchildren or thank the handful of people who stood by him after he was charged.
Sandusky has been on house arrest in his College Township home under $250,000 bail since he was arrested on a second round of charges in December and hasn’t been allowed to have visitors.
Cleland ruled that Sandusky should be allowed to have visits from eight of his 11 grandchildren.
The mother of three of Sandusky’s grandchildren, now divorced from Sandusky’s son, strongly objects to Sandusky having contact with her children, prosecutors said Friday. Cleland said he would defer to the judge overseeing a custody case involving the children to determine whether those three should have contact with Sandusky.
The judge also said Sandusky can have visits in his home from up to 12 adult friends whose names are on a list in his home, subject to approval by the county probation department, the judge ruled. A probation official testified Friday that the main concern about allowing visitors is that they might bring prohibited items into Sandusky’s home.
While Sandusky has been allowed to leave his home for court appearances and medical appointments, his lawyers say they need him to help identify potential witnesses in his defense. Defense attorney Joseph Amendola said Sandusky doesn’t know the witnesses’ names, but knows where they lived.
Cleland wrote Sandusky will be allowed to leave his home to help his lawyers with the permission of county probation officials. He must provide 36 hours notice and a written explanation of why he needs to leave his home, who will accompany him and how long he will be gone.
The judge also ruled on three requests by Sandusky’s lawyers for additional information about the investigation that led to his charges:
Cleland denied Sandusky’s request for access to secret grand jury testimony in his case, noting the Dauphin County judge who presided over the hearings should make that decision.
The judge ordered prosecutors to turn over state police investigative documents if Sandusky is entitled to them or file specific objections to his requests if he is not.
He ordered prosecutors to provide Sandusky with information about the time, date and location of his alleged offenses and the ages of his accusers on the date of the alleged offenses. He denied Sandusky’s request of detailed descriptions of the acts that led to his charges and a request for the names, ages and addresses of the state’s witnesses.
Addressing the prosecutors’ request to keep Sandusky indoors, Cleland wrote that while he understands the parents and teachers’ concern, there is no evidence that Sandusky approached the children or made any effort to call out or gesture to them.
Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 counts of sexually abusing children he met through his charity for disadvantaged youth. Prosecutors allege he molested 10 young boys in his home, on the Penn State campus and elsewhere between 1994 and 2008.