By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times –
The child sex-abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will begin with jury selection on Tuesday, with the real stars expected to testify later.
Judge John Cleland rejected what is likely the defense’s last bid to delay the trial, noting in a written opinion that starting the court case next week would protect Sandusky’s right to a fair trial while giving the alleged victims their day to be heard. The defense had sought to delay the case, to take place in Centre County Court in Bellfonte, Pa., arguing — among other issues — that it needed more time to digest the material presented by the prosecution.
“The reality of our system of justice is that no date for trial is ever perfect, but some dates are better than others,” Cleland wrote in a decision released Wednesday.
Cleland met with both sides in the case. Still pending are some motions including one to keep the identities of some of the alleged victims secret. But with his ruling, Cleland sent a forceful message that he wants to begin the trial phase of the case, with jury selection on June 5 and the start of the actual trial around June 11.
Sandusky is charged with 52 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over several years. The boys were clients of the Second Mile charity he founded for at-risk children. The scene of the alleged abuse included the Penn State campus, where Sandusky took the children on field trips.
It was in the showers at the university that Sandusky is alleged to have abused one of the boys. Prosecutors say that scene was witnessed by Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant and later a full-time assistant football coach. McQueary went to head coach Joe Paterno, who went to university president Graham Spanier.
Paterno was eventually dismissed for failing to take strong enough action in the Sandusky case. The university board of trustees also fired Spanier. Paterno died weeks after he was fired of cancer.
Two other university officials are charged with failing to report the suspected abuse and with perjury related to their testimony before a grand jury investigating the scandal. Those officials, athletic director Tim Curley, who is on leave, and retired vice president Gary Schultz, have said they will invoke their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination if asked to testify in the Sandusky case.
McQueary is expected to testify and be one of the stars for the prosecution. Some of the alleged victims are also expected to testify.