BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The wife of Jerry Sandusky testified at his child sex abuse trial Tuesday that she recalled that many of her husband’s alleged victims were guests at the family home over a period of years.
But Dottie Sandusky told jurors that she observed no inappropriate contact involving her husband and the witnesses, some of whom claim that the ex-Penn State assistant football coach repeatedly assaulted them inside Sandusky’s home.
In her first public comments about the case since her husband was charged last November, Dottie Sandusky said she never heard anyone screaming for help from the basement bedroom, as one alleged victim testified.
She also disputed the account of another alleged victim, who said the coach threatened to send him home from a Penn State football bowl game in Texas if he did not submit to the coach’s sexual advances.
Dottie Sandusky, dressed in a light green sweater and matching blouse, acknowledged that one of the alleged victims traveled with the family to the bowl game in San Antonio.
But she said her husband became angry with the boy because he refused to attend a previously scheduled luncheon on a pre-paid ticket that cost the family $50.
She said her husband was “yelling” at the boy: “We did this for you, you got to do this,” she said, recounting the incident. The alleged victim has said that Dottie Sandusky came back to the hotel room unexpectedly, interrupting a sexually charged encounter between him and the coach.
Before beginning her testimony, the defendant’s wife acknowledged her husband with a nod and a smile, as he watched from the nearby defence table.
Sandusky, who her family dubbed “Sarge” because of her household-management style, said she recognised all but two of the eight alleged victims in photographs displayed to the jury.
Two other alleged victims have never been found by authorities. One by one, she told jurors in a soft voice that she observed no inappropriate contact involving them. She added that one of the alleged victims “had his problems.”
“He was demanding and wanted his way,” she said of the young witness. Another witness, she said, was “very clingy” toward her husband and would jump into her husband’s arms on occasion.
Still another, she said, visited the home after he alleged that some of the abuse had occurred.
At one point, she told jurors that she became aware of a 1998 investigation of her husband’s contact with a young boy in a university shower room. She said that a few days later, she was informed that no charges would be filed. The police officer who investigated that incident referred it for prosecution, but the then-district attorney rejected the case.
Sandusky said on cross-examination that her husband would visit the children in their rooms at the family home to wish them “good night” at bedtime. However, she said that her husband was almost always in bed before her.
Earlier, defence attorneys closely questioned two Pennsylvania state police investigators about whether they coached some of the alleged victims to provide damaging details about Sandusky’s behaviour with them.
One of the troopers, Cpl. Joseph Leiter, now retired, acknowledged to Sandusky defence lawyer Joe Amendola that he told some of the alleged victims that they “wouldn’t be alone” if they came forward because “there were others.” He also said he told one witness in an April 21, 2011, interview that investigators had interviewed as many as nine other alleged victims.
“I don’t want you to feel ashamed about what happened,” Leiter told the alleged victim according to a recording of the meeting played in court. “I don’t want him (Sandusky) to take advantage of you … We need you to tell us as graphically as you can about what happened to you. Remember, you are not alone.”
Asked by prosecutor Joe McGettigan whether the officer ever told witnesses what to say, Leiter turned to the jury and said, “No.”
But Amendola later read Leiter portions of the interview transcript in which the investigator told the victim others had reported abuse that progressed to oral sex and rape.
Also on the transcript was a conversation between a lawyer for an alleged victim and Leiter discussing how to get the witness to open up about what had happened to him. At one point, while his client is out of the room, attorney Ben Andreozzi asked Leiter: “Can we say at some point in time we have interviewed other kids?”
Andreozzi later testified about his conversation with Leiter and acknowledged that his client could bring a civil lawsuit following the criminal case involving Sandusky. But the attorney said that he has not talked to his client about filing a lawsuit.
Asked by Amendola whether a guilty verdict would favourably impact any lawsuit, Andreozzi said, “It could have an impact.”
The sexual abuse trial entered its sixth day on Tuesday. Sandusky is charged with 51 criminal counts related to 10 alleged victims over a 15-year span. He’s accused of engaging in illegal sexual contact ranging from fondling to forced oral and anal sex. Prosecutors dropped one charge Monday.
The defence also questioned a psychologist who said he diagnosed Sandusky with histrionic personality disorder.
Elliot Atkins, a clinical and forensic psychologist who often testifies for criminal defendants, said the disorder is partly characterised by “inappropriate, sexually seductive or provocative behaviour.” Atkins said that he interviewed Sandusky for six hours and examined a series of intimate letters the former coach sent to one of the alleged victims.
Atkins said that people diagnosed with the disorder often display “excessive emotionality and attention seeking” characteristics. He said they often feel unappreciated when they are not the centre of attention.
“The letters (referring to the correspondence he sent to one of the alleged victims) made me feel more confident about my diagnosis,” Atkins said.
A prosecution psychiatrist called to rebut Atkins’ claims, said he found no evidence of the disorder. Physician John O’Brien, who interviewed Sandusky last Sunday, said some of the traits noted by Atkins were “consistent” with a psycho-sexual disorder involving adolescent boys.
Also Tuesday, a number of long-time friends and neighbours of the former coach testified about Sandusky’s stellar reputation in the community. They included participants in Sandusky’s the Second Mile Charity for at-risk children, from which he is alleged to have selected his victims.
Joyce Porter said she has known the Sandusky family for 40 years. “All the people I know who know Jerry think he’s a wonderful man,” she said.
When she was dismissed from the witness stand Porter walked behind the defendant and patted him on the shoulder.
The defence also called former New York Jets linebacker Lance Mehl, who played for the Nittany Lions in the 1970s.
“We all looked up to him as a class act,” Mehl said when Amendola asked him about Sandusky’s reputation.
The defence is expected to wrap up on Wednesday, and jurors could get the case as early as Thursday.
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