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May 06, 2015

Sandusky appeal seeks to have molestation case thrown out

Penn State Crime and Courts
Jerry Sandusky Matt Rourke/AP

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center, is taken from the Centre County Courthouse by Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau, left, and a deputy, after being sentenced in Bellefonte, Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky argued in a new appeal Wednesday that pretrial publicity, leaks and unprepared defense lawyers are among the reasons a judge should throw out his child sexual abuse conviction.

Sandusky says the criminal proceedings violated his constitutional rights, prosecutors engaged in misconduct and his attorneys were ineffective during his 2012 trial and an earlier round of appeals.

"The commonwealth's entire case was a house of cards resting on testimony that trial counsel should have exposed as incompetent, unreliable and inadmissible," wrote his new lawyer, Al Lindsay.

He says Sandusky's right to a fair trial was "crushed under a stampede of vitriol, rage and prejudice" that warrants a new trial and ultimately the dismissal of charges.

State prosecutors said they are reviewing the petition and plan to respond.

Sandusky, 71, was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, some on campus, and is serving a decades-long prison sentence. He has maintained his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but saying he didn't abuse them.

The petition revisits and elaborates on many of the arguments his lawyers have previously made, including that accusers' stories changed over time and that they may have been motivated by a desire to cash in.

A previous appeal was denied by the state Superior Court, and the Supreme Court declined to take it up. The new appeal, filed under the state's Post Conviction Relief Act, focuses on the job his lawyers did, constitutional violations and newly discovered evidence.

Lindsay argued the case was rushed to trial when public hostility against Sandusky had reached its peak. He said the trial attorneys should have refused to go forward after the judge denied their requests to be taken off the case because they didn't have time to adequately prepare.

The attorneys "essentially abandoned" Sandusky through a series of decisions and failures, Lindsay wrote.

A reference by a prosecutor in closing arguments to an interview Sandusky gave to NBC shortly after his arrest violated his right to remain silent, Lindsay wrote.

Lindsay also reviewed the accounts told by the accusers, saying they made "multitudes of inconsistent statements."

He said prosecutors deliberately misled jurors about whether they had identified a young man, called Victim 2, whom a graduate assistant said he saw in the football team showers with Sandusky in 2001.

"By making (a) statement to purporting to have no knowledge about the identity of Victim No. 2, the commonwealth violated its sacred duty of candor to the tribunal by making a materially false statement of fact to the jury," Lindsay said.

A law firm representing a man who purports to be Victim 2 has said it reached a settlement with Penn State over Sandusky-related claims, part of about $60 million the university has paid out in the matter.

Lindsay wants a hearing to explore how information about a grand jury investigation into Sandusky was published by The Patriot-News eight months before charges were filed and a leak about the charges shortly before Sandusky was arrested.

At that hearing, he wants to call to the stand Sandusky's prior defense and appeals attorneys, prosecutors, investigators, a former Patriot-News reporter, former Gov. Tom Corbett, who was the state attorney general when the investigation began, and others.