BELLEFONTE, Pa. Judge John Cleland took center stage in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial Wednesday afternoon, issuing a key decision in favor of the prosecution and announcing that the proceedings are unfolding much faster than expected.
This after a morning session that featured more testimony from alleged victims, one of whom claims he was threatened by Sandusky, as the former Penn State assistant coach's trial completed its third day.
Cleland adjourned court more than an hour early before telling the jury the prosecution would comfortably conclude its case by Friday. The defense has yet to present its case.
The announcement came even after a decision that allowed the prosecution to call more witnesses in its extensive case against Sandusky, who is charged with 52 counts of molesting 10 boys over 15 years.
Wednesday afternoon, Cleland ruled on a defense objection to the charges related to one of the alleged victims because said charges were based on hearsay. The person in question, identified by the prosecution as Victim 8, has never come forward. The alleged assault occurred in the Lasch Football Building on the Penn State campus in 2000. The direct witness to the supposed crime a Penn State janitor now suffers from dementia and is not fit to testify.
But two coworkers who were told of the alleged assault, one of whom was in close proximity of the room where it was said to have happened. That coworker passed along his recollection to the grand jury investigating the case, leading to the charges.
Cleland sat in silence for a few moments considering the situation and ultimately ruled against the defense, saying a foundation had been laid for the charges to stand and when the entire case against Sandusky was considered there was sufficient evidence for the charges to stand.
A janitor's secondhand account
That cleared the way for Ronald Petrosky, one of the janitors who heard the second-hand account of the alleged assault, to testify. He told the jury that on a night in 2000, he entered the support staff locker room in Lasch Building to clean the showers.
This is the same area where former Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary contends he saw Sandusky molesting a boy in 2001.
Upon entering the locker room, Petrosky said he noticed two pairs of legs in the shower, and realized an adult male and child were there. He said a co-worker Jim Calhoun was cleaning the nearby toilets at the same time. Petrosky left the room because he could not clean the shower with people in it.
A few minutes later, he testified, Sandusky left the locker room with a young boy. The duo walked down a hall and then began to hold hands, he said.
Petrosky said that as he attempted to re-enter the room, Calhoun was coming out. His co-worker was flustered and looked ill. He quoted Calhoun as saying, I just witnessed something I'll never forget in my life. That man had that boy up against the shower wall, licking on his privates.
Jerry Sandusky arrives at court Wednesday.
When pressed, Petrosky said Calhoun actually used much more graphic language in that instance and when he reported it to a more senior janitor. The third janitor is expected to testify Thursday morning.
Calhoun has since been stricken with dementia and is unable to testify in this case.
Petrosky said he saw Sandusky driving by Lasch Building at least twice that same night, including one time after 2 a.m.
In what has become a familiar pattern in this case, defense attorney Joe Amendola highlighted inconsistencies in a witness' testimony at trial and to the grand jury. There were some significant ones here.
When speaking to the grand jury, Petrosky said the incident happened in the assistant coaches' locker room, which is different from the support staff room. He also indicated things unfolded over a longer period of time.
When pressed on the time, Petrosky said, I can't remember.
Victim 5 gives emotional testimony
There was another key development regarding the now infamous support staff shower Wednesday. The first witness of the afternoon was so-called Victim 5, a 23-year-old who testified that Sandusky molested him in the very same shower in 2001.
The date of the alleged incident could prove to have far-reaching implications. When first interviewed by police last year, Victim 5 recalled the incident happening in 1998. But after considering it further, he said he realized it was actually 2001.
He changed schools that year, he said. And it occurred to him that the incident happened between his birthday in early August and Sept. 11, when terrorists attacked a series of locations across the Eastern United States.
This was about six months after the incident McQueary said he witnessed earlier in the year. Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, vice president Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier allegedly banned Sandusky from bringing children into Lasch Building after hearing of the incident from McQueary.
Curley and Schultz are already headed to trial on charges they lied to the Sandusky grand jury.
In testifying Wednesday, Victim 5 became emotional. He said he and Sandusky worked out in the weight room at Lasch Building on the evening in question, though he was so small he could not lift any weights. Afterward, he said, they stripped down to towels and went into the Lasch sauna. There, the witness said, Sandusky exposed himself.
After the sauna, they headed to the support staff shower, the witness testified, adding that he went to the opposite end of where Sandusky was standing, trying to get as far away as possible.
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He turned to see Sandusky looking at him.
He started (walking) in my direction. He threw some soap on me and started touching my shoulders.
The witness began to cry on the stand, and put his hands on his face. He went on to explain that as Sandusky pushed forward, he faced the wall and tried to move away, but there was nowhere to go. He testified that Sandusky rubbed against his back, touched his genitals and then took my hand and put it on his.
The witness said he ran away before anything else happened. Sandusky eventually emerged from the shower, the witness testified, dried himself off and got dressed. The two did not speak as Sandusky drove the boy home, the witness said.
He never heard from Sandusky again, he said, and tried to wipe the whole incident from his mind before police contacted him last year. Prior to talking to police, he had only told a girlfriend what happened.
I wanted to forget and I was embarrassed, he said.
The morning session
The jury in heard more reluctant testimony Wednesday morning, as two more alleged victims of sexual abuse came forward to confront Sandusky.
According to one, Sandusky threatened him with retribution if he ever informed anyone of their alleged encounters.
He told me if I told anyone, I would never see my family again, the witness said.
Listed as Victim 10 by the prosecution, he came forward after the original charges were brought against Sandusky last November. But the witness nearly backed out of testifying Tuesday night.
He was talked into appearing by a former foster mother, and decided to testify because it is the right thing to do.
Now 25, the witness' testimony was similar in nature to the previous alleged victims who took the stand. From a troubled family, he met Sandusky through the former coach's Second Mile youth camp in 1998. He said Sandusky once groped him in a swimming pool and that Sandusky would put a hand on his thigh while they were in a car together.
Later, he testified, the two performed oral sex on one another in the basement of Sandusky's home. After the first instance, the witness said, I was freaked out, I was scared.
He said at that point Sandusky threatened him, but later backed away from the comment.
He apologized for saying that, the man told the jury. He said he didn't mean it and he loved me.
Under cross-examination, the witness admitted to having spent time in prison and to having a criminal record that includes robbery and burglary charges. Now living in Maryland, he was not among the original alleged victims when Sandusky was first charged early last November. He contacted investigators after he learned of the other alleged victims.
Victim 7's conflicting opinion of Sandusky
Victim 7 took the stand late in the morning. His testimony was the least graphic of any of the alleged victims so far. Now 27, he also met Sandusky through a Second Mile camp. In 1995, Sandusky began taking him to Penn State football home games, and the witness said Sandusky provided him with tickets to Nittany Lions games up through the 2009 season.
He testified that Sandusky had inappropriate contact with him in the mid-1990s, including an instance when Sandusky touched his genitals while they were together in a car. There were also instances when he stayed at Sandusky's house, he said, and that Sandusky would lay beside him in bed and rub his chest. He also recounted instances where the two would shower together, naked, and Sandusky would bear hug him from behind.
John McQueary delivered strange testimony Wednesday.
He said he endured the uncomfortable situations and kept them quiet because he loved going to the Penn State football games.
I didn't want my parents to keep me from going to games, he said.
I tried to black that stuff out and focus on the positive.
The witness said Sandusky became more distant toward him in the late 1990s, but that he kept providing him with football tickets until two seasons ago. The witness continued to tailgate with the Sandusky family through the years.
In cross-examination, defense lawyer Joe Amendola produced a scholarship request from the witness that was dated 2004. In it, the witness wrote, Jerry Sandusky has changed my perspective on life in a positive way. He also wrote, He is such a kind and caring gentleman, I will never forget him.
This is the same Jerry Sandusky you've been telling the jury about, Amendola said.
No, the witness replied, not to me.
Witness forgets earlier hearing
Wednesday morning also featured a strange twist, as a prosecution witness could not recall making testimony in a December preliminary hearing related to this case.
John McQueary, the father of star prosecution witness Mike McQueary, left most in the courtroom scratching their heads as he said he had no knowledge of testifying in the December hearing, in which former Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz were bound over for trial on perjury charges.
The elder McQueary, who did testify in the hearing in Dauphin County, denied it even after defense attorney Karl Rominger showed him a transcript of his own testimony.
When Rominger tried to jog his memory, Judge John Cleland said the elder McQueary had answered the question. Rominger looked puzzled as did most in the courtroom.
He said he wasn't there, Mr. Rominger, what can I tell you? Cleland said.
As a graduate assistant at Penn State in 2001, Mike McQueary says he spotted Sandusky and a boy together in a shower in the Lasch Football Building. Mike McQueary has testified he believed the two were having sex. After the alleged incident, he called his father for guidance.
On direct examination Wednesday, John McQueary said his son was very clear that what he had seen was sexual in nature.
He said, it didn't take a rocket scientist or something like that to see what was going on, the elder McQueary testified.
Rominger was apparently trying to point out differences in John McQueary's testimony in this trial and in the Curley/Schultz hearing when the witness became flustered and said he was not at the previous hearing.