BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Connie Bowland arrived on the steps of the Centre County Courthouse at 3:20 a.m. Wednesday with her daughter, sister and niece. The guidance counselor at an area elementary school was here for one reason.
"I want to look him in the eye, I want to see him, face him," Bowland said.
"Him" is Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator and founder of the Second Mile charity that was designed to help at-risk youth. Over the last 13 years, Bowland sent numerous kids to Second Mile.
She thought then they were going to camps and programs. Now she believes it was right into the line of a predator.
"I feel total betrayal," Bowland said. "I sent him these kids that were at risk, underprivileged, to give them an opportunity they wouldn't have."
When Bowland heard on television Sandusky might take the witness stand Wednesday in his own defense against 51 counts of sexual molestation of children, she decided she couldn't miss it. If Jerry Sandusky was going to face the court, Connie Bowland wanted her face to be one of the ones he saw.
"I want to hear from him," she said.
She wouldn't get the chance.
The defense rested at 11:45 a.m. ET with Sandusky still seated at a table, silent.
That's Sandusky's right and the jury of 12 has been instructed not to hold it against him. The prosecution decided to call no further witnesses. Judge John Cleland said closing arguments will begin Thursday at 9 a.m.
"How we getting home?" Sandusky asked his attorneys a few minutes later, as the courtroom cleared. It was a question loaded with literal and figurative meaning. He was told a family friend would drive him for what may be his last commute: He faces hundreds of years in prison if convicted on all counts. The jury could get the case by midday Thursday. They will be sequestered if deliberations push into Friday.
On a grander scale, the defense thinks they can bring Sandusky home for good after just three days of evidence and testimony and no words from the man on trial.
The risk of keeping Sandusky silent is that those jurors held the same opinion as Bowland, part of a community that feels the 68-year-old owes them an explanation. At the very least they were eager to hear his side of a he said-he said that included the testimony, often powerful, from eight alleged victims and two other witnesses to assaults.
Instead, the defense will bank on creating reasonable doubt by asserting Sandusky was the target of an overaggressive police investigation that coached potential victims, worked with a local newspaper and employed unethical tactics to frame a good man who simply wanted to help kids.
It's a huge gamble in the face of last week's emotionally gut-wrenching prosecution presentation. The state sent out a parade of men who through tears, sobs and gasps of breath detailed horrific act after horrific act in Penn State locker rooms, Sandusky's kid-friendly basement and hotel rooms on football road trips.
Terms such as "tickle monster," "soap battles," "it's your turn," "bloody underwear," "he blew on my stomach" and "severe sexual position," to name but a few, were seared into the jury's minds.
Putting Sandusky on the stand would have been fraught with risk. He didn't handle himself well in media interviews with NBC and the New York Times. However, not personally addressing the specific charges and explaining his propensity to shower with and lay in bed with young boys, activities Sandusky acknowledges he did regularly, is riskier.
The defense, according to a source, considered putting Sandusky on the stand as late as Tuesday evening but instead decided to go with what they could without the defendant's own words. No one was certain of the decision deep into Wednesday morning.
Over three days this week, the defense called a slew of character witnesses to assert Sandusky was a loving, caring, generous mentor to children. There was fairly ineffectual psychologist testimony trying to explain away the so-called "creep love letters" he sent Victim No. 4.
The defense made small dents in the credibility of former Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary, who testified he walked in on Sandusky and an unknown boy in the Penn State showers in 2001. It's unlikely it was enough to cause the jury to discount the entire testimony.
Instead, the focus was on sloppy police work. Tuesday's airing of an unexpected tape recording of one state trooper providing Victim No. 4 with background information on what other witnesses alleged contradicted specific testimony from the cops that they never engaged in such a practice.
Wednesday, as temperatures rose outside and courtroom No. 1 was filled to capacity for the first time in the trial, the defense continued to chip away.
It called David Hilton, now 21, who spent a great deal of time as a youth with Sandusky, including taking out-of-state trips and staying in the Sandusky basement. He said nothing inappropriate ever occurred but said he didn't trust police investigators when they questioned him on multiple occasions.
"I felt like they wanted me to say something that wasn't true," Hilton said. "They asked me the same question over and over."
Prosecutors countered that it was Hilton's uncle, concerned about his contact with Sandusky, who contacted them and even called again Tuesday evening.
The defense was also able to introduce an email from Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot news reporter Sara Ganim to the mother of Victim 6 saying the mother could contact a specific police investigator on the case.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola intimated in a hearing Tuesday afternoon that the defense might try to link that email with Ganim breaking news that Sandusky was under grand jury investigation to assert the cops and the newspaper were working together. More alleged victims came forward after news of the grand jury broke in March 2011.
Is a grand conspiracy enough here? Even if a juror believes it, how do they explain away McQueary, who first made his allegations in 2001, a group of janitors who said Sandusky was involved in a locker room molestation in 2000, and the 1998 investigation by Penn State police where charges were not filed?
The defense had little to work with in this case.
Sandusky's admitted behavior is troubling to most. They can't argue he never showered with boys. Instead they have to say that, yes he hugged and wrestled with them naked in empty shower rooms, but that it didn't, as all these kids insisted, go any further.
Trust Jerry, they'll say, even if you didn't hear from him directly.
"That's not enough for me," Connie Bowland said. "I'm angry."
The only good news for the defense is she isn't one of the jurors.
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