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Sandusky’s motion to dismiss charges denied

By Peter Hall, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) –

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The judge in Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse case said it is too soon to decide what allegations can go to trial with a grand jury in Harrisburg still hearing evidence.

In a brief hearing Thursday in Centre County court in Bellefonte, Pa., Judge John M. Cleland said he would deny Sandusky’s motions to dismiss some charges and test the evidence supporting others without prejudice. That means Sandusky’s lawyer Joe Amendola can raise the issues later in an attempt to have the 52 child sexual abuse charges thrown out.

“The whole proceeding is somewhat complicated and in flux,” Cleland said. We have the grand jury proceeding ongoing. It would premature to decide what can and cannot be prosecuted.”

Many of the other issues raised in a voluminous pretrial motion were resolved in the brief hearing. Amendola said he is satisfied that a search of Sandusky’s home and wiretaps were legal and that Sandusky’s statements to a police officer in 1998 were not given in violation of his right to remain silent.

The former Penn State assistant football coach appeared in court for the first time since February, smiling and joking with reporters in the front row of the Bellefonte courtroom.

Sandusky, 68, has been confined to his home near State College on $250,000 bail since December.

He faces allegations that he sexually abused 10 young boys, some of whom he met through his charity for disadvantaged children.

Amendola filed papers last month asking Judge John M. Cleland to dismiss the charges with regard to seven of Sandusky’s accusers on grounds that the allegations are so devoid of details (like the time and place of the alleged assaults) that Sandusky can’t build an adequate defense.

He also argued that the state attorney general’s office doesn’t have enough evidence to prove the charges with regard to three of the victims.

Amendola claims assistant football coach Mike McQueary’s testimony about an alleged 2002 assault in a locker room shower is insufficient by itself to prove the charges.

Likewise, he contends that evidence of a 2000 locker room shower assault is insufficient because the only eyewitness is an elderly former janitor who suffers dementia and is unavailable to testify. The janitor’s co-workers testified before a grand jury that the janitor told them what he saw, but that testimony would not be admissible during a trial, Amendola argued.

Finally, Amendola contends that prosecutors don’t have sufficient evidence to show Sandusky had sexual contact with a boy he is accused of molesting in a locker room shower in 1998.

In the attorney general’s response, Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina argued broadly that Sandusky had a chance to test the state’s evidence but gave up his right to a preliminary hearing in December.

If Sandusky had chosen to go through with the hearing, the attorney general’s office would have been required to put its witnesses on the stand, and Amendola would have had a chance to cross-examine them, Fina noted.

Fina also attacked Amendola’s claims that charges were filed too late with regard to eight of Sandusky’s accusers whose alleged abuse occurred before 2002. That year, the time limit for prosecutors to file charges in child sex cases was extended from five years after a victim’s 18th birthday to 12 years.

Because the old deadline had not expired for any of Sandusky’s accusers in 2002, the time period to file charges was extended to 12 years and again in 2006 until the accusers’ 50th birthdays.

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