HARRISBURG, Pa. – New documents filed by the lawyers for former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky suggest there are at least 17 accusers in the child sexual abuse case, a much higher number than described in criminal charges.
The requests, dated April 16 and April 23, were attached to a motion filed Thursday in which Sandusky defence lawyer Joe Amendola asked the supervising judge to mandate more disclosure of investigative materials.
The criminal charges against the former Penn State assistant football coach only pertain to boys named as Victims 1 through 10 in court records.
The April 16 discovery request asked for information on “uncharged conduct evidence,” while the one filed a week later pertained to employment records.
The court filing did not name the people, explain what might make them accusers or indicate what role, if any, they play in the criminal case in which Sandusky has denied all allegations.
“This in all likelihood means that there are other people who have come forward who have accused him of improper sexual conduct,” said Wes Oliver, a Widener Law School professor who specializes in criminal law.
Asked about the eight supposed accusers, Sandusky defence lawyer Karl Rominger indicated the basis for the requests grew from previous material disclosed to the defence by the attorney general’s office.
The April 23 request referred to “all individuals identified as Accusers 11 through 17 as well as 18 through an unknown number.”
“The requests we made are based on what we believe should be provided, based on information we’ve received to date,” Rominger said.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office declined to comment, citing a gag order issued by the presiding judge.
Lawyers for potential civil litigants have said there are accusers beyond the 10 alleged victims for which Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal charges. One alleged victim has filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia that is on hold while the criminal case proceeds.
There are many possible reasons why prosecutors might not file charges based on the claims of a purported victim, from problems with the statute of limitations and questions about credibility to a strategic analysis about how much evidence to put before jurors.
Information about any additional accusers for which Sandusky has not been charged could help the defence try to undermine the credibility of the prosecution’s case, said University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff, an expert on Pennsylvania criminal law procedure.
“There may not be anything there, but who knows?” Burkoff said. “It’s all a part of getting as much evidence as you can, to see what you’ve got.”
Oliver said there are theoretical scenarios under which the additional names could be either helpful or damaging to Sandusky’s defence.
“If the other eight people are kooks, that’s actually a great story for the defence to put before the jury,” Oliver said. “If, however, there are eight other alleged victims out there who the prosecution just can’t corroborate but they’ve got pretty good stories, then that’s really bad for the defence.”
Another discovery request, dated March 27, sought nine documents that Amendola said were removed from football coach Joe Paterno’s office and copied by state police. Amendola wrote that the documents had undergone a “supervised review” and been protected by a “police seal of evidence.”
It was not clear what the documents were, or when the state police may have taken them.
Paterno was fired in November, following Sandusky’s arrest, and he died of lung cancer in January. Paterno was not charged with any crime but expressed regret about how he handled a complaint from an underling about Sandusky in a football team shower with a boy a decade ago.
Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn said he had no information about the documents and referred questions to Penn State, which declined comment.
“Coach Paterno delivered all relevant materials under his control,” McGinn said. “The Paternos were not part of any ‘supervised review.'”
It is normal for prosecutors and defence lawyers to argue about disclosure of investigative materials prior to trial, which in Sandusky’s case is scheduled to begin in one month.
On Thursday, Judge John Cleland directed state prosecutors to turn over materials that are not in dispute before a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday in Bellefonte, and to say in writing by Monday if there are remaining discovery disputes.
Also, Friday, Penn State trustee Kenneth Frazier, said that ex-FBI director Louis Freeh and his team had conducted more than 400 interviews in the internal investigation spurred by the charges against Sandusky.
Frazier said the investigation includes current and former employees from numerous departments across the university, which employs more than 18,000 at its main campus in State College.
The school still hopes the investigation will be completed by the time the next academic year begins in late August. The board still intends to make the full findings and recommendations public, Frazier said.
But, he added the time of the report timing “will be dictated by how long it takes to complete a thorough investigation.”