BELLEFONTE, Pa. – The slightly built 18-year-old, looking nervous and ashamed, leaned into the witness stand microphone.
He was a trailer-park kid, the son of a mom who worked in a bar and a dad who was never around, just the kind of project Jerry Sandusky's Second Mile charity was supposed to help. A patch covering his right eye due to a medical procedure made him seem broken and even more vulnerable
And here he was, through a low, occasionally cracking voice, telling a crowded Centre County Courtroom how when he was a young teen he'd stay in Sandusky's basement on weekends. That's when the former Penn State defensive coordinator would routinely come down at night and force him to perform oral sex.
"What was I going to do?" the witness, known in court documents as Victim No. 9, said. "Look at him, he's a big guy, bigger than me. Way bigger than me."
The boy only kept returning to Sandusky's home because his mother, thinking he needed a male role model, insisted he do so. Soon the sessions occasionally included sodomy, and he couldn't stop those attacks, either.
"I just went with it," he said. "There was no fighting against it. … Sometimes [I'd] scream. Sometimes tell him to get off of me. But other than that, he was there, you were in a basement, no one can hear you down there."
"Did you ever bleed?" Sandusky's defense attorney, Joe Amendola asked later on cross-examination.
"Yes," the witness said, in a chilling tone so matter-of-fact it was heartbreaking. "I just dealt with it. I have a different way of coping with things."
Less than a half hour later court was adjourned until Monday morning. The prosecution, while not officially resting its case, is expected to turn the floor over to the defense then.
Just not before prosecutors presented one last dose of graphic, bloodcurdling testimony, one more horrible tale to rattle around in the jurors' minds during a long weekend.
"Between now and then we have three days of temptation," Judge John Cleland warned the jury, citing the need to avoid not just media coverage but any discussion of the case. "It's better to say absolutely nothing."
It's possible to not speak. It's another thing to not think.
In four days the state has hit 12 jurors and four alternates with an avalanche of stories, evidence and descriptions they probably could never have imagined.
Sandusky, 68, is facing 52 counts of molesting 10 children over 15 years, using his influence as a Penn State assistant football coach and the local Second Mile charity to prey on disadvantaged youth. He maintains his innocence.
As court was adjourned, Amendola stood, sorted a few papers by tapping them on the defense table and let out a small sigh as he handed the documents to a legal assistant who placed them in one of six boxes of files.
So began the most difficult and pressure-packed weekend of preparation of Amendola's career. The 63-year-old is known for his courtroom flair, sense of humor and unconventional style.
He'll need every last bit of it to keep Sandusky out of prison for the rest of his life.
Legal experts and courtroom observers agree that Sandusky was beaten to a pulp by the prosecution witnesses this week and there was little Amendola or co-defense counsel Karl Rominger could do to stop it.
While some maneuvers can be questioned, the two are dealing with what lawyers jokingly call, "bad facts." Namely, their client had a propensity to, at the very least, shower alone and cuddle shirtless on waterbeds with young boys.
They can't even cross-examine one of the prime witnesses, a former Penn State janitor who now has dementia but alleged a particular graphic 2000 assault in a locker room shower. Judge Cleland allowed hearsay evidence to be admitted, a brutal hurdle for an already challenged defense.
Only once during the onslaught was Amendola able to hint at an ability to argue that an alleged assault didn't happen. That's when Victim No. 10 claimed he was abused while riding with Sandusky in a silver convertible. Amendola harped on the car during cross examination. Sandusky sources say Jerry has never owned such a car and no one has ever seen him driving one.
Other than that, Amendola has been forced to seemingly concede that Sandusky was present when the alleged acts occurred. The line drawn in the argumentative sand occasionally was about whether there was actual penetration or just naked rubbing of private parts. It's not a promising place for a defense to operate.
Amendola and Rominger have been stuck focusing on inconsistencies among various alleged victim testimonies, the fact some alleged victims have continued their relationships with Sandusky into adulthood and arguing that some could be making accusations for monetary gain.
Some of the counterarguments have worked better than others. Some of the victims are clearly shakier than others.
It's unlikely any of Amendola's small victories have been enough to convince the jury to ignore the totality of profound and disturbing testimony. But, of course, all it would take for a hung jury is for one juror to have reasonable doubt about his guilt.
Toward the end of Monday's session, deputy attorney general Joe McGettigen paced in front of the jury box and asked jurors to remember something they'd heard as they broke for the day:
"The showers, the showers, the showers."
By Thursday, he could have added "the basement, the basement, the basement" and "the hotels, the hotels, the hotels" and who knows how many other locations. Then he could have shifted to at least a dozen gasp-inducing phrases and moments from the rest of the week.
"Tickle monster" … "soap battles" … "it's your turn" … "creepy love letters" … "he blew on my stomach" … "severe sexual position" … "the B-J Story" … not to mention the waterbed, the terrified janitor, the frustrated local cop, the victim who said that even despite Sandusky's abuse "I loved him" for years afterward, and a Second Mile child participant chart with stars next to many of the alleged victims in this case.
That's not the kind of stuff you just forget once you walk out of the jury box for the weekend.
The prosecution's weakness may have been that it presented too much, too quickly. It has nearly completed its case days earlier than even the judge expected.
The rapid-fire nature of the presentation may have numbed the jury to some of the testimony. As emotional and powerful as Victim No. 9's story was, the jury did not seem to listen with the same rapt attention it did listening to similar witness testimony earlier in the week. If it's possible to become a bit numb to such graphic tales, then Courtroom No. 1 this week is the place it would occur.
Amendola must come out of the gate strong with his defense of Sandusky, delivering something that changes the momentum of the case by jolting the jury into believing there is another side to the story.
The jurors likely will be rested and eager to hear Sandusky's defense, but not if it appears as meandering and pointless as many of the cross-examinations.
Amendona needs to bring facts that dispute the acts ever occurred, witnesses that can deconstruct not just the accusers, but whether what they allege was even possible. Simply finding character witnesses, Second Mile kids who had positive experiences or family members who didn't notice anything untoward, isn't going to cut it after the state's epic run this week.
With so much smoke, if not raging fire, Amendola will have to find a way to convince any juror with a hint of doubt not to put Sandusky away just to be safe.
The defense may be desperate enough to call Sandusky himself, even after his disastrous interview with NBC's Bob Costas last November. Amendola alluded to him taking the stand during opening arguments.
Maybe that's the only way to possibly save a conviction, the accused trying to explain the seemingly unexplainable.
As Amendola strolled out of the Centre County Courthouse on a brilliant, sunny afternoon in this picturesque town, all that was certain is that he has three days to think up something.
And it better be good. Real good.
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