Jerry Sandusky can visit grandchildren, step outside, judge says
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Jerry Sandusky will get a local jury in his trial on child sex-abuse charges and will be allowed to visit with his grandchildren, a judge ruled Monday in giving the former Penn State football coach several victories.
Centre County Judge John M. Cleland also rejected a prosecution request that Sandusky be confined inside his home while under house arrest. Neighbors have complained that Sandusky, while outside his home, was able to watch children at a nearby school.
“The generalized concerns of parents, while understandable, cannot justify additional bail restrictions in the absence of some evidence from the commonwealth that the defendant’s presence or behavior on his deck presents a danger to the community,” Cleland wrote.
The rulings follow a Friday hearing at which Sandusky took the stand.
Sandusky is accused of molesting at least 10 boys through a charity he founded, The Second Mile. Some of the alleged assaults took place at Penn State, where Sandusky would bring children on field trips. The former coach has denied all charges.
The child sex-abuse scandal rocked the university and the nation, eventually leading to the dismissal of the school’s head football coach, the late Joe Paterno, and school president Graham Spanier; both were criticized for failing to act more aggressively in having law enforcement officials investigate Sandusky. Further, two Penn State administrators are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky. Both administrators have denied those charges.
The prosecution had wanted to draw people for the jury pool from outside Centre County, where Sandusky lives and where the university is located, arguing that it would be difficult to find a jury that hadn’t been tainted by the flurry of publicity surrounding the case. The defense, however, disagreed.
Cleland in his order said it’s not possible to know if a potential juror can be fair until questioned during selection. “I am not persuaded the commonwealth has established the factual predicate to reach a conclusion that the ‘the most imperative grounds’ support granting its motion, especially since the defendant objects,” Cleland wrote. “The presumption should be in favor of at least making an effort to select a fair and impartial jury in the county where the defendant has been charged.”
If there are problems in seating a jury, Cleland said, he would reconsider his order.
The judge gave Sandusky permission to have visits with eight of his 11 grandchildren. One mother, who is divorced from Sandusky’s son, objected to her children having contact with the defendant. Sandusky’s trial is tentatively scheduled to start in May.
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-- Michael Muskal