Jerry Sandusky pleads not guilty

Updated: December 13, 2011, 8:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky stunned a packed courtroom Tuesday and backed out of a preliminary hearing at the last minute, avoiding a face-to-face confrontation with accusers who his lawyer said were just trying to cash in by making up allegations of child sex abuse.

Sandusky pleaded not guilty to 52 charges of sexual assault and vowed afterward to "stay the course, to fight for four quarters."

His lawyer, Joe Amendola, then took the defense to the courthouse steps and spoke before dozens of news cameras for an hour, saying some of the 10 men who accuse Sandusky of molesting them as children were only out to profit from civil lawsuits against the coach and Penn State.

A prosecutor said 11 witnesses were ready to testify at the hearing.

"It makes my blood boil," said Ben Andreozzi, a lawyer representing the accuser known as Victim 4 in a grand jury report. "All the money in the world isn't going to bring them back to where they were before the sexual assaults."

Sandusky also waived a Jan. 11 arraignment and requested a jury trial, Amendola said. A pretrial conference was set for March.

Sandusky remains under house arrest and electronic monitoring.

"If he wants to change his mind at the last minute, that's his prerogative," senior deputy attorney general E. Marc Costanzo said.

Kenneth Suggs, an attorney for the accuser known as Victim 6 in the grand jury report, called Sandusky a "coward" for not hearing his accusers' testimony, and derided the arguments that they were out for money, saying many were too old to sue Sandusky under Pennsylvania's statute of limitations.

[+] EnlargeSandusky
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarJerry Sandusky waived his preliminary hearing Tuesday, choosing to go to trial on child sex abuse charges. He will be arraigned Jan. 11.

"What annoys us is all last week, this lawyer has accused our client of fabricating this situation -- and now to bail out and not face his accusers, tells you all you need to know about him," Suggs said. "Yeah, I'm calling him a coward. Anybody who would abuse children like this is by definition a coward."

Andreozzi read a statement from Victim 4, who called it the most difficult time of his life.

"I can't believe they put us through this until the last second," the statement read. "Regardless of the decision to waive the hearing, nothing has changed. I still will stand my ground, testify and speak the truth."

Sandusky, 67, faces 52 criminal counts for what a grand jury called a series of sexual assaults and abuse of 10 boys, dating to the 1990s, in hotel swimming pools, the basement of his home in State College and in the locker room showers at Penn State, where he coached football until his retirement in 1999.

The charges devastated the university and its storied football program and led to the dismissals of coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier. Charges of perjury and failure to report the suspected abuse were filed against athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz.

Curley was placed on leave and Schultz retired after they were charged.

There will be no plea negotiations. This is a fight to the death.

-- Joseph Amendola, attorney for Jerry Sandusky

"We're not going to comment about any specific issues or individuals involved in the ongoing investigation that would not be fair or appropriate," Penn State department of public information director Lisa Powers said, according to ESPN's Pedro Gomez.

Amendola told reporters Tuesday that Sandusky is an emotional, physical man -- "a loving guy, an affectionate guy" -- who never did anything illegal.

The lawyer likened Sandusky's behavior to his own Italian family in which "everybody hugged and kissed each other."

Sandusky has told NBC and The New York Times that his relationship to the boys who said he abused them was like that of an extended family. Sandusky characterized his experiences with the children as "precious times" and said the physical aspect of the relationships "just happened that way" and didn't involve abuse.

Amendola said he decided to waive the preliminary hearing late Monday after concluding that the evidence would be one-sided, and after prosecutors agreed to give early warning of any further charges and to keep Sandusky's bail at $250,000.

A spokesman for the prosecutors said Sandusky's bail conditions were adequate, but made no other promises.

Regardless of the decision to waive the hearing, nothing has changed. I still will stand my ground, testify and speak the truth.

-- Statement from accuser, referred to in grand jury report as Victim 4

"Sandusky waived his rights today. We waived nothing," said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.

Curley and Schultz will not waive their preliminary hearings, scheduled for Friday in Harrisburg, their lawyers said.

Amendola and state prosecutors confirmed that no one had started plea bargain talks.

"There will be no plea negotiations," Amendola said. "This is a fight to the death."

Some of the alleged victims were disappointed they didn't have the opportunity to testify, their lawyers said, after steeling themselves to face him.

"It would have been apparent from watching those boys and their demeanor that they were telling the truth," said Howard Janet, a lawyer for a boy whose mother contacted police in 1998 and said her son had showered with Sandusky.

Sandusky was accompanied to court by his wife, Dottie, some of their adopted children and alumni of The Second Mile, an organization that he founded in 1977 to help struggling children. The grand jury report said he used the charity to meet and lure his alleged victims.

"We have no comment," Eric Herman, public relations director for The Second Mile, told ESPN's Gomez.

[+] EnlargeBen Andreozzi
AP Photo/Alex BrandonAttorney Ben Andreozzi read a handwritten statement from the accuser known in the grand jury report as Victim 4.

Accusations surfaced again in 2002, when then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported an incident of alleged abuse to Paterno and other university officials.

The grand jury probe began only in 2009, after a teen complained that Sandusky, then a volunteer coach at his high school, had abused him.

The teen told the grand jury that Sandusky first groomed him with gifts and trips in 2006 and 2007, then sexually assaulted him more than 20 times in 2008 through early 2009.

Amendola on Tuesday attacked McQueary by citing a Sunday report in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa., that claimed McQueary changed his story when speaking to a family friend.

The defense attorney said McQueary's conflicting account would derail the prosecution.

"McQueary was always the centerpiece of the prosecution's case," he said.

The newspaper report cited a source said to be familiar with the testimony of the family friend, Dr. Jonathan Dranov.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Dranov at his home and office for comment. No one answered the door at McQueary's home Tuesday. His father, John, declined comment to the AP.

Lawyers for Curley and Schultz issued a joint statement Tuesday about the newspaper report.

"If this information is true, and we believe it is, it would be powerful, exculpatory evidence and the charges against our clients should be dismissed," lawyers Thomas Farrell and Caroline Roberto said.

Meanwhile, officials at another Pennsylvania school said Tuesday that Sandusky insinuated himself into the school's football program last year, despite being denied an official position because he failed a background check.

Sandusky had sought a volunteer coaching position at Juniata College in May 2010, more than a year after a high school where he volunteered began investigating his contact with a student there.

Sandusky attended Juniata practices and games despite the athletic director's directives to the then-head coach that Sandusky couldn't associate with the team, school spokesman John Wall said.

Information from ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez and The Associated Press was used in this report.