Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From the Preliminary Hearing Nazi: "No Scoop For You!"

The stage was set, the actors were all there and so, of course, was the media.

The preliminary hearing of Jerry Sandusky in sleepy little Bellefonte, Pa. promised to be a fascinating show, at once sad and ugly but thrilling just the same. Victim after victim of Sandusky's alleged crimes would get to tell their stories of abuse at his hands.

Members of the gawkasoriate would take notes, picking out the juiciest tidbits to relate to a public hungry for details about Sandusky's alleged career as a child molester.

And just when the show was about to get started yesterday morning, it was suddenly, infuriatingly called off.

Defense Attorney Joe Amendola, waived the hearing that would have allowed Sandusky to face his accusers. He pleaded his client not guilty and afterwards accused Sandusky's alleged victims of being little more than money-grubbing liars.

A lawyer for one of Sandusky's accusers called Amendola's legal move, "despicable." Amendola could have saved everyone, prosecutors, witnesses, and especially the alleged victims, not to mention the media, a lot of time and trouble if he'd announced his intentions a day earlier. But no, he waited until the very moment the show was about to begin and then he dropped the curtain.

What a let down! But the lack of a show didn't stop hundreds of stories from being filed and the future of the case speculated upon.

I, for one, didn't go for this pump fake. I didn't make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to this little hamlet for the prelim. Not because I'm smart but because I'm too old and my legs are too tired to waste my energy leaving the floor while the guy I'm trying to cover works an up-and-under move. It's easy to get an elbow in the jaw coming down when you join the helicopter club.

So though, I was e-vited to attend this fiasco, I passed. Ironically, the last time I was in Bellafonte it was to interview a convicted child predator. I was unimpressed by his claims of innocence but I told his story, such as it was.

Since his arrest, with the blessing of his attorney, Jerry Sandusky has been telling his story to selected reporters. He loves kids, both boys and girls, and old people too. Is he sexually attracted to young boys? He can't really say. He doesn't seem to know. But he knows enough to say he never touched any of them in a sexual way. That will remain his story, right up until the time he pleads guilty or is convicted of however many of the 50 counts of child abuse lodged against him.

No, the case against Jerry Sandusky doesn't particularly interest me anymore. There's no mystery in it and I have little doubt about the outcome.

The cases that interest me are the perjury cases against Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

One of the people who didn't have to testify at Sandusky's hearing yesterday was the enigmatic Mike McQueary, who supposedly witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the Penn State lockerroom shower in 2002. He is the one witness Joe Amendola appeared to be drooling to cross examine. Prosecutors would have been crazy to put him on the stand yesterday, given they had plenty of other victim/accusers to hold Sandusky for trial.

But the cases against Curley and Schultz are based almost entirely on the word of McQueary. He says he told them what he told the grand jury about what he saw that night. Curley and Schultz say he was less certain and much more vague than that. The grand jury believed McQueary.

Since then, McQueary's story has changed a bit. Other witnesses are reporting he told them a different version of what he saw - and didn't see - that night. And what he did - and didn't do - that night.

Friday, Curley and Schultz face their preliminary hearings on their perjury charges in Harrisburg. I can't imagine that hearing being waived. McQueary will have to testify in open court and face cross examination. Now that is a performance I would like to see.

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