BELLEFONTE, Pa., June 18, 2012— -- The withering allegations of sex abuse from eight accusers in the Jerry Sandusky trial were largely ignored today by Sandusky's legal team as the defense began telling their side of the story.
The defense's first day of testimony ended abruptly only an hour into the afternoon session as Judge John Cleland told the jury that "technical issues" with some of the witnesses would keep court adjourned until Tuesday morning. But he laid out a schedule that indicates Sandusky will offer few witnesses on his behalf.
Cleland would not explain what the problems with the witnesses were today, but said only that he expected the defense to rest Wednesday. He said the court would hear a rebuttal from the prosecution on Wednesday afternoon, and told the attorneys to be ready to give closing arguments on Thursday.
The judge informed the jury that they will be sequestered once they begin deliberations.
Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 counts of molesting 10 boys. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the charges.
Sandusky's lawyers called four people to the stand and all were essentially character witnesses.
Former youth counselor Brett Witmer was called to the stand to counter some of the claims from the man known as Victim 4, who testified that Sandusky took a special interest in him, wrote him letters and made him sign contracts, stalked him from school begging the boy to talk to him, and sexually abused him.
Under questioning by defense attorney Joseph Amendola, Witmer said that he worked with Victim 4 at a youth group program the boy was in during elementary and middle school. He said that the boy told him Sandusky was a big part of his life, and he often saw the two interacting.
"Jerry certainly seemed to be an important part of (Victim 4's) life... He seemed like he had a genuine interest in making sure the kid was moving in the right direction," Witmer, now an elementary school teacher, testified.
He relayed an incident in which Sandusky showed up at the youth center to pick up Victim 4, and the boy did not show. Sandusky and the counselor chatted on the steps of the youth center.
"He said, 'You've got to understand when you're dealing with kids coming from difficult situations sometimes they're not going to want to meet with you, go with you, and other times they're going to want to do fun things and play. You just always have to be there for them,'" Witmer recalled. "Even as I do social work now I keep that in mind."
David Pasquinelli, a former board member for the Second Mile, the charity Sandusky helped create, said that for two years he and Sandusky would take fundraising trips together and got to know each other well.
"I saw a mutual admiration between Second Mile youth, both boys and girls, with Jerry. I saw a lot of goofing around. Jerry had a very unique way, and many of us were inspired by this, how he could relate to youth of all ages and really get to their level and communicate," Pasquinelli said.
In addition, two former Penn State coaches who worked with Sandusky, Richard Anderson and Booker Brooks, were called to testify about a locker room culture where showering with young boys was common. Sandusky is accused of using showers to molest young boys.
"Jerry had a great reputation. He had a wonderful reputation in the community, he was well thought of in every way," Anderson said.
Before the defense began its case, the prosecution presented one last emotional witness.
The mother Victim 9 testified through tears that she felt responsible for pushing her son to spend time with the coach because "he was Jerry Sandusky. He was an important guy."
The woman said that she never asked her son, who testified last week that he was raped by Sandusky, what exactly happened to him in Sandusky's basement during the sleepovers he said he had every weekend for nearly four years.
On Thursday, Victim 9, who is now 18, said that he was repeatedly forced to perform oral sex on Sandusky and be sodomized by Sandusky in the coach's basement. The testimony followed seven other witnesses who said they were sexually abused by Sandusky.
"I just can't imagine what happened to him," the mother said today through sobs.
"Do you feel responsible?" the prosecutor asked.
"Yes I do," she said.
The mother said that her son called her once from Sandusky's house asking her to pick him up immediately because he was feeling sick. In his testimony Thursday, Victim 9 said he called his mom for help once when Sandusky was sexually abusing him, but did not tell his mother the reason for the call.
Victim 9's mother testified that he suffered medical problems during ages 15, 16, and 17 when he had severe stomach problems and trouble going to the bathroom. She said he also never put his underwear into the laundry, always telling his mother that he had an accident and threw them out.
On Thursday, Amendola questioned Victim 9 about rectal bleeding and stains on his underwear. The boy said his mother never saw stains and that he "just dealt with it."
The trial began today with a surprising statement from Judge John Cleland saying he had doubts about the strength of the prosecution's case, but at this point in the trial is convinced that there is enough credible evidence that the charges should go to a jury. His comments were made while the jury was out of the courtroom.
Cleland's statements of doubt about the state's case contrasted with his consistent dismissal of motions by the defense to have charges dropped against Sandusky. Since Sandusky's arrest in November, Amendola has repeatedly complained to Cleland that the charges against his client were too broad and too vague to be defended in court. Cleland dismissed Amendola's complaints repeatedly, but said today even he wondered whether the alleged charges were too vague.
"I've been concerned about this since the beginning," Cleland said. "There were very broad representations made by the Commonwealth on the bill of particulars. Since then, the Commonwealth has submitted an amended bill of particulars, and amended their information, which I believe now meets the standards of due process. Although early on I certainly was not persuaded that that was the case."
Cleland's statements followed a morning of legal wrangling over whether some of the counts of sex abuse against Sandusky should be tossed today, as the prosecution wraps up its case. The prosecution is expected to rest following one additional witness, who will take the stand at 10 a.m.
Sandusky's lawyers argued that the charges against him were too broad and vague because they lacked specific dates and locations, and gave Sandusky no shot at a good defense because he could not use alibis to prove that he was somewhere else.
Defense lawyer Karl Rominger said that the counts of indecent assault from the man known as Victim 2, whom assistant coach Mike McQueary allegedly saw in the shower with Sandusky, should be dismissed because McQueary did not actually see a sexual act taking place, and there was no direct evidence that a sexual act occurred. The victim in that alleged assault has never been identified.
Cleland sided with the prosecution, however, saying that the jury could decide if McQueary's account was strong enough to prove a crime was committed.
The defense also asked for the counts stemming from Victim 6 to be dismissed on the grounds that the man testified he "blacked out" and did not remember parts of a shower with Sandusky, and therefore could not credibly allege that a crime was committed. Cleland said again that the jury should decide.
The prosecution, however, did withdraw one of the 52 charges against Sandusky, a third degree felony of unlawful contact with a minor.
But Sandusky's star witness in his defense is likely to be his wife Dottie. Amendola, who suggested in opening arguments that Sandusky might take the stand to defend himself, will likely ask Dottie Sandusky to take the stand to testify she never suspected her husband of doing anything improper with the young boys he mentored.
Last week, several of the alleged victims said that they were abused in the Sandusky's basement while Dottie was upstairs. One witness even told the jury that he had screamed for help while being raped in the basement, but no one answered his call. And the man known as Victim 4, who was the first witness called by the prosecution, said that during a trip to a bowl game, Dottie walked into a hotel room while Sandusky was allegedly trying to sexually abuse the boy in the bathroom and asked, "What's going on in there?"
Dottie Sandusky has released few statements to the media, noting only that she fully supported her husband. She was sequestered away from the trial because she was an expected witness.
Amendola may also call Matt Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky's adopted son who is expected to testify that he was never abused at the hands of his father.
The defense is also expected to call on an expert witness to testify that Sandusky is diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder, a condition which they say makes him overly affectionate.
If Amendola calls the expert witness about the disorder, the prosecution will be able to call a rebuttal witness in the mental health field who may come up with his or her own explanation for Sandusky's behavior. Sandusky was reportedly evaluated by a psychologist for the prosecution over the weekend.
Dr. Liza Gold, a psychiatrist at the Georgetown University Medical Center, said that the disorder does not necessarily explain Sandusky's behavior.
"I personally and professionally don't see how such a diagnosis could explain intimate letters," Gold told ABC News. "There is no association between histrionic personality disorder and any type of child sexual abuse of any kind."
Amendola will likely also continue to go after the credibility of the witnesses who accuse Sandusky of sex abuse by possibly entering phone records that show the men may have planned their accusations together or other witnesses who heard the men say they were hoping to get rich off of the case. Amendola questioned a number of witnesses repeatedly last week about whether they ever told anyone they were dreaming of big houses or big cars resulting from civil suits tied to the case.
Other children that Sandusky mentored through his Second Mile charity or Penn State-affiliated programs may be called to testify that he never acted inappropriately with them.