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Dr. Saturday

Team Sandusky introduces the ‘hygiene’ defense

Dr. Saturday

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Jerry Sandusky, an attorney for the former Penn State defensive coordinator said on Thursday that his embattled client used to shower with young boys to teach them "hygiene."

Attorney Karl Rominger, part of the team representing Sandusky against more than 50 felony counts of sexual abuse, admitted to a local television station in Harrisburg, Pa., that his client showered with adolescents he claimed to be "mentoring" through his charity, The Second Mile, but denied there was evidence of criminal activity. Instead, Rominger argued, Sandusky was showering with them to teach them how to shower.

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"Some of these kids don't have basic hygiene skills," Rominger told the station. "Teaching a person to shower at the age of 12 or 14 sounds strange to some people, but people who work with troubled youth will tell you there are a lot of juvenile delinquents and people who are dependent who have to be taught basic life skills like how to put soap on their body."

The argument might be a tough sell to a jury, especially given the charges against Penn State officials who allegedly knew of allegations against Sandusky for years before the investigation that led to his arrest last month.

Sandusky initially faced 25 felony counts of deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault against at least eight victims over more than a decade. He was re-arrested last week on 12 additional counts involving two additional victims. The Penn State Board of Trustees has appointed a special committee to investigate the university's response, as has the U.S. Department of Education.

According to the grand jury's report, there were at least two occasions — once in 1998, when Sandusky was the subject of an investigation involving university police, and again in 2002, when head coach Joe Paterno was informed directly by graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in a locker room shower — on which Paterno and other Penn State administrators had reason to at least suspect Sandusky was engaging in violent criminal behavior in the football facilities. Still, Paterno only passed the 2002 charge up the chain to the then-athletic director Tim Curley, and apparently did not follow up with his boss or former colleague.

Sandusky was neither disciplined nor reported to authorities, and (thanks to his "emeritus" status following his retirement in 1999) continued to maintain an office in the football building and enjoy access to the locker room and other campus facilities as recently as October. Paterno, Curley and university president Graham Spanier have all lost their jobs; Curley and another former official also face indictments for perjury and failure to report Sandusky to authorities. Penn State has been hit with one civil suit, and Paterno has hired an attorney in anticipation of more.

It has been a rough week for Sandusky's defense, as defense attorney Joseph Amendola essentially suggested that anyone who thinks Sandusky is a child molester should "dial 1-800-REALITY," which turned out to be a gay sex line.

There has been a trickle-down effect to the football team as the association with Sandusky, who was recently arrested wearing a Nittany Lions windbreaker, proves too strong for a program that was once among the most revered in college football. Rivals.com five-star defensive tackle Tommy Schutt switched his allegiance this week, instead committing to Ohio State in the wake of the scandals.

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Kristian Dyer is on Twitter: Follow him @KristianRDyer.

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