BELLEFONTE, Pa. – For Jerry Sandusky, Wednesday inside Centre County Court had been going reasonably well.
Two of the accusers called to testify had proven either shaky or prone to defense attorney Joe Amendola's familiar attack about financial motivation. Another accuser offered testimony that, at least by the standards of this case, didn't reach blockbuster levels.
Things were calm. Slow even. It must have been a welcome change for a defense that had been hit by tidal waves of credible, graphic testimony from prosecution witnesses since the trial began Monday.
Then came a controversial mid-afternoon ruling by Judge John Cleland to allow hearsay evidence of a former Penn State janitor who while cleaning a football locker room alleged he saw Sandusky pin a "boy against the shower wall (while) licking on his privates."
And with that, the day in court changed dramatically.
The janitor who saw the act firsthand, Jim Calhoun, now suffers from dementia and is incapable of testifying to the incident he observed in 2000. However, after a 15-minute hearing to a defense objection, Cleland allowed the prosecution to call two Penn State janitors that Calhoun relayed the story to that night.
The first janitor witness, Ronald Petrosky, immediately gave the prosecution the kind of searing, sickening testimony it sought, just in time to send the jury into the night with another stomach-churning incident and maintain the state's considerable momentum in this case.
"I could see that he was upset," Petrosky testified of running into Calhoun that night outside a staff locker room. "His face was white and his hands were trembling … He said … 'I just witnessed something in there I'll never forget the rest of my life. The man who just left, he had the boy up against the shower wall licking on his privates.' "
The incident was not reported to Penn State officials at the time. Similar to testimony from assistant football coach Mike McQueary, the story offers another independent witness seeing Sandusky involved sexually with a child in the Penn State football facilities.
Sandusky, 68, is a former Penn State football coach facing 52 counts of sexual molestation of 10 boys over a 15-year period. He maintains his innocence.
Getting the janitor's story in front of the jury was the most significant legal victory of these proceedings. The prosecution had actually already managed to smoothly get at least part of the incident in front of the jury before it was ruled admissible.
Just before Cleland ruled, the state played parts of Sandusky's November interview with NBC's Bob Costas.
On that television program Costas asked about the incident – "a janitor said that he saw you performing oral sex on a young boy in the showers." After Sandusky denied it occurred, Costas declared the janitors to be trusted voices – "what would possibly be their motivation to fabricate it?"
The defense had agreed to allow the interview heard in court, yet minutes later argued to keep the janitors' testimony out.
That looked like deputy attorney general Joe McGettigan outfoxing Amendola, especially since other parts of the interview were not included. In the end, because the entire janitor story was deemed admissible, it didn't matter. Yet the legal wrangling was still telling.
The Costas interview provided more intrigue. On two occasions the audio of the interview played the same question and answer twice, almost like a skipped record. Except that this was from a digital recording.
The two questions were, conveniently enough, arguably Sandusky's worst exchanges in an interview many have thought was a public relations disaster for the former coach.
Costas: "Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every respect?"
Sandusky: "Well, I could say that, you know, I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their leg. Without intent of sexual contact. But – so if you look at it that way – there are things that wouldn't, you know, would be accurate."
Then later came a double airing of Costas most noteworthy question, where Sandusky didn't offer the immediate, direct "no" that most viewers expected.
Costas: "Are you sexually attracted to young boys? To underage boys?"
Sandusky: "Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?"
Sandusky: "Sexually attracted? You know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. I … but, no, I am not sexually attracted to young boys."
McGettigan said after court that he wasn't aware of the interview audio repeating the two questions. "I wasn't paying attention," he told Yahoo! Sports. He said he had no idea how that may have happened, only that he didn't prepare the recording.
Compared to the inclusion of the janitor's testimony, however, the Costas interview was almost meaningless. As Costas noted in November, the janitors' motivation to lie is suspect, and none have any obvious financial gain. Plus, the defense can't even challenge Calhoun over what he saw.
Calhoun, who had seen men die during his time in the Korean War, told Petrosky that what he saw in the shower was worse.
Then there was Petrosky's supporting testimony. He had entered the staff locker room to clean the shower only to discover running water and two sets of legs – one with body hair, one without.
He waited outside the locker for the people to finish. Within a few minutes Sandusky and a small boy opened the door, both with their hair wet, carrying gym bags. As they walked down the hall they began holding hands.
That's when Petrosky entered the locker room and ran into a panicked Calhoun who told him what he'd seen while he, apparently unbeknown to Sandusky, was cleaning the toilets.
Petrosky took Calhoun to a conference room – "We thought he was going to have a heart attack," Petrosky testified. He called down other janitors and Calhoun described the incident again, only this time in even more coarse language.
Another janitor is expected to testify Thursday.
Once Sandusky's defense team lost the legal ruling, it had no immediate counter to the janitor's stories. Amendola stumbled about on cross examination, trying to find any inconsistency in the janitor's story Wednesday and the one told to a grand jury a year ago.
All he could uncover were pointless claims like whether the janitor waited five minutes or 10 minutes for Sandusky and the boy to finish showering.
And then there was this gem from Amendola: "Nowhere in (the prior testimony) does it mention hairy legs."
Amendola offered no counter argument that Sandusky was, again, showering in an empty locker room with a boy, according to new, unattached and highly credible witnesses. He never even mentioned the concept of hearsay to plant in the jury's mind that this testimony might not be fair to Sandusky.
After a strong morning where he'd been at his best in picking apart prosecution witnesses, it all crumbled around him.
For the prosecution, things wrapped so well, and so swiftly, it was announced they expect to finish their case Friday, ahead of schedule.
With bit of good news, and more horrifying testimony floating in their ears, the jury filed out of court an hour earlier than usual.
Sandusky and his defense could only return to square one.
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