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Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Alleged victim's lawyer: Comments hurt

Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A newly hired lawyer for a high school student described by prosecutors as a sexual abuse victim of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky said Tuesday that his client has been distressed to hear Sandusky's attorney dispute the charges.

Slade McLaughlin said his client stands by the allegations and sees the strategy by defense attorney Joe Amendola as putting victims on trial instead of Sandusky.

The grand jury report, issued Nov. 5 when Sandusky was charged with 40 criminal counts, accused Sandusky of fondling and repeated instances of oral sex after they met about five years ago through The Second Mile, a charity for disadvantaged youths Sandusky founded.

"I can only say it was emotionally devastating," said McLaughlin, who also represents the boy's mother. "It was someone he trusted. It was someone he believed had his best interests at heart. What's even more distressing to him and his family is Sandusky's lawyer is out there saying Victim No. 1 is a liar; he's made all this up."

Amendola, who did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday, said last week that Sandusky has maintained his innocence and that he has information leading him to conclude he may be innocent.

"We're ready to refute all eight charges in the original presentment," Amendola has said. "We have evidence to refute all of those."

Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing eight boys over a period of 15 years and faces charges that include involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault. The case also led to the dismissal of Penn State president Graham Spanier and longtime football coach Joe Paterno.

McLaughlin said Amendola's tactics reminded him of a defense lawyer in a rape case saying the woman "wanted it."

"The proof is going to come out strong and hard, and these people are going to eat their words," McLaughlin said.

He said that Amendola's comments were not appropriate and that they may be an effort to influence potential jurors in favor of Sandusky.

"I frankly think a lot of his comments have been incendiary," McLaughlin said. "I think they have been harmful and hurtful to a lot of the victims."

The boy, who recently changed high schools, was bullied, received threats and did not receive sufficient support at his previous high school, McLaughlin said.

The boy and his mother have been overwhelmed with calls from reporters, McLaughlin said, and hired him and another attorney in part to help them cope with the media pressure. He declined to go into detail about the family's home life.

The boy's school was closed Tuesday and administrators did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

The grand jury report said Sandusky hosted the boy overnight at his home in State College, took him to restaurants, church and a pool, and gave him gifts that included golf clubs, a computer and cash.

Jurors said physical contact began as "back-cracking" and progressed to back rubs and kisses before Sandusky performed oral sex on him more than 20 times during 2007 and 2008.

Sandusky was a volunteer coach at the boy's high school, jurors wrote, but he was banned from the district in 2009 after the boy's mother reported sexual assault allegations. School officials contacted authorities, and the state attorney general's office got the case on referral from the Centre County district attorney at the time, who cited an apparent conflict of interest.

Sandusky's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 13 at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. McLaughlin said he has been in talks with prosecutors about whether his client will testify.

The preliminary hearing for Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, two Penn State administrators charged with failing to properly report suspected abuse and perjury, was delayed this week until Dec. 16, in the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg. Schultz, who once oversaw the university police, has retired, and Curley was placed on administrative leave.

McLaughlin said a lawsuit on behalf of his client is a foregone conclusion but will not begin until criminal proceedings are complete. He said potential targets include Sandusky, Penn State, The Second Mile and "some people who should have reported this early on and didn't."

In State College, student leaders, university president Rodney Erickson and other administrators plan to appear at an event for students regarding the child sex-abuse scandal Wednesday in Heritage Hall. The university also is conducting smaller forums, run by its counseling and psychological services center, on Tuesday and Thursday, and next week.