Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky abruptly waived his right to a preliminary hearing on child sex abuse charges today and his attorney suggested the 10 alleged victims may have colluded for financial gain.
Eight of the 10 victims were believed ready to testify against Sandusky, 67, at a preliminary hearing this morning on charges that he sexually abused them over a 15 year period. The hearing was meant to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed to trial, but Sandusky opted to waive the preliminary hearing and go straight to trial.
Sandusky paused outside the courthouse as he left to say, "We fully intend to put together the best possible defense that we can do, to stay the course, to fight for four quarters."
As Sandusky left, he ignored a reporter's shouted question, "Sandusky, do you still maintain your innocence?" His lawyer Joe Amendola answered for him, replying, "Yes."
Sandusky's last minute decision to waive the hearing surprised lawyers for the 10 young men, but Sandusky and Amendola made it clear they were not backing down.
"We're ready to defend, we always have been ready to defend. There will be no plea deal," Amendola said. "This will be a fight to the death, the fight of Jerry Sandusky's life."
Amendola said that he and Karl Rominger, a prominent Pennsylvania defense attorney who is now co-counsel on the case, decided Monday night that it was not in their best interest to go through with the hearing because prosecutors made clear they would not allow him to question the credibility of the accusers and witnesses.
By skipping the preliminary hearing "we eliminated the rehashing of the allegations in the presentment without the opportunity to attack the credibility of the witnesses," Amendola said.
Arraignment was set for Jan. 11, but Amendola said Sandusky has already entered a not guilty plea. He remains under house arrest on $250,000 bail and must wear an ankle monitor.
The lawyer made it clear that "we're attacking these cases one at a time," and said he could think of "nine million reasons, (the amount of) Second Mile's assets, and countless millions from the deep pockets of Penn State" why someone would claim to be a sex abuse victim.
The Second Mile is a charity founded by Sandusky where he met many of the alleged victims.
"What better motivation can there be than money, the financial gain that could come from saying, 'I'm a victim?'" Amendola asked.
He also suggested that the accusers may have engaged in "some sort of collusion.. We know several.... knew each other."
Amendola said that possibility would be "aggressively investigated" and said he would ask the court for phone records to see if accusers called one another.
Prosecutors welcomed Sandusky's decision to waive the preliminary hearing. "The waiver means that the victims in this case, although they were ready, will not have to testify and will not be cross examined at this time," he said.
Since the alleged victims will still testify at the trial, it "avoids having to testify a second time."
Michael Boni, a lawyer for a man identified in the grand jury report as Victim 1 said he had dinner Monday night with the client and his mother.
"I knew how stressful this day would be for him. I can imagine this is terrific for my client knowing that they don't have to relive the horror up on the witness stand," Boni said.
"I think he would like justice served in the way least stressful and that means not having to testify," the lawyer said.
Boni also said, "I hope this means that a plea deal is down the road."
Lawyer Ben Andreozzi, however, read an angry statement from his client, identified in the grand jury report as Victim 4.
"This is the most difficult time of my life. I can't put into words how unbearable this has been all my life, both physically and mentally. I cant believe they put us through this until the last second," he wrote.
He vowed, however, "I will still stand my ground and speak the truth," and underlined the word truth several times.
Amendola said he hopes a trial date can be set for the summer or fall of 2012.
Several of Sandusky's six adopted children and his wife, Dottie, were among the 20 supporters who joined him in the courtroom.