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Witnesses’ consistent testimony bolsters prosecution, experts say

By Matt Carroll, McClatchy Newspapers –

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A legal expert sitting in on the Jerry Sandusky trial said the challenges for the former Penn State coach’s defense team are growing as each witness takes the stand.

“If this were just a ‘he said, he said’ this would be a much harder case for the prosecution to bring,” said Wesley Oliver, a professor at Widener University Law School.

“But each victim’s testimony has very interesting consistencies,” he said. “The big parts are all different, and the little parts are all the same.”

The alleged victims have described a similar start to the alleged abuse they say they experienced.

Three witnesses testified Wednesday that Sandusky touched and squeezed their legs while driving them to Penn State football games or to his home.

For some, it would allegedly escalate to oral sex or anal penetration. Others testified the alleged abuse didn’t go that far.

Defense attorney Joe Amendola told jurors in his opening arguments Monday “there are no victims in this case.” He suggested the witnesses had financial motivations.

“Every one of these witnesses says it starts with touching of the leg,” Oliver said. “Three of four said an early scene occurs in water.

“If you were to try to link these stories all together, you would say, ‘He had oral sex with all of us in the basement or in the shower,’ ” Oliver continued. “That’s what the consistent part would be.”

A 23-year-old man, identified as Victim 5, testified Wednesday he was able to escape further abuse after Sandusky cornered him in a shower on the Penn State campus and pressed up against him.

The witness, who was 12 when the alleged incident occurred, doesn’t claim it went further than that.

“It’s interesting to me the consistent part is the beginning,” Oliver said. “I don’t think that’s what a whole bunch of people trying to concoct a tale would seize upon to coordinate.”

Tom Kline, the civil attorney for Victim 5, told a throng of reporters outside the Centre County Courthouse on Wednesday that the alleged victims’ testimony has been corroborative.

“I believe there is a cumulative power in what we’ve seen,” Kline said. “It’s all come together as a web here.”

His client was the third alleged victim to testify Wednesday, and the fifth overall in the trial. Kline said he believes the similarities in the young men’s statements will be difficult for defense attorneys to overcome.

“It appears to me that we have a story that seamlessly fits together of a pattern of conduct that starts out with putting the hand on the knee and taking the boys into the shower,” he said. “It’s not one, it’s not two, and it’s only going to grow.”

Gunner Gleason, a veteran defense attorney from Cambria County, Pa., who is not involved in the Sandusky case, said the prosecution is developing a strong case.

“The witnesses seem to be able to handle the pressures of being in the courtroom,” Gleason said. “For the most part, they’ve been unflappable.”

State College, Pa., attorney Matt McClenahen called the alleged victims’ testimony “an onslaught” against the defense.

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