Three of the 51 criminal counts against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky were thrown out Thursday morning as the lawyers prepared to turn over the child sex-abuse case to the jury.
In a morning ruling, Judge John Cleland tossed out three of the charges, leaving 48 for the jury of seven women and five men to consider. Two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse involving the person known as Victim 4 were thrown out because he testified that Sandusky attempted to penetrate him but did not say the former coach had succeeded. The third dropped charge was a repeat of another count.
Even with Thursday’s action, Sandusky, 68, still faces 48 criminal charges of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year-period. After the Thursday action, he faces nine counts of the most serious charge, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The jury, sitting in Bellefonte, Pa., heard closing arguments from the defense and prepared to hear the prosecution’s summation. Then, the jury will be sequestered to begin deliberations on the case that shocked the Penn State community and cost head football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier their posts.
In his closing, defense attorney Joseph Amendola said his client was the victim of accusers who had hopes of a financial gain from civil suits expected after the criminal issues are resolved. He also blamed the investigations which assumed Sandusky was guilty. Both are themes the defense sounded frequently in the two-week trial.
The prosecution has argued throughout the trial that Sandusky is a predatory pedophile. It built its case on the testimony of eight men who said they were abused as children by Sandusky. Judge Cleland on Thursday explained to the jurors that they can accept or reject all or parts of the testimony, according to media reports from the courtroom.
The defense also called on a number of character witnesses, including Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, who said they had never seen Sandusky commit an improper act with a boy. Dottie Sandusky specifically rebutted descriptions by two of the accusers. The judge told the jurors they could accept or reject what they wanted of that testimony, as well.
Cleland also explained some of the nuances the jurors should examine. For example, Cleland told the jury that an adult hugging a child or rubbing a boy’s back is not a crime. But if the intent of the adult is sexual, the act becomes criminal.
And the judge walked through the technical differences among the charges ranging from involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, through the others including indecent assault, unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children.
“We all rely on your integrity and your good judgment,” Cleland told the jury.