POSTED: 12:30 a.m. HST, Dec 2, 0001
LAST UPDATED: 1:12 p.m. HST, Jun 19, 2012
BELLEFONTE, Pa. >> Jerry Sandusky’s wife testified today that she remembers most of the men who told a jury that her husband sexually abused them, but she said he never had inappropriate contact with them as boys.
She also said that the basement where the boys would stay wasn’t soundproof, a statement that contradicted one man’s testimony that he screamed during an assault but couldn’t be heard.
Defense lawyers called the former Penn State assistant football coach’s wife to the witness stand today after they went after two investigators, suggesting that police shared details among accusers and planted the seeds of the alleged victims’ evolving accounts of abuse.
The jury also heard from a psychologist who testified that Sandusky has a personality disorder that might explain the “creepy” letters he sent to one of his accusers. The defense also offered more testimony touting Jerry Sandusky’s reputation as a family man and community stalwart.
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.
Dottie Sandusky has stood by her husband, posting his bail, accompanying him to court proceedings and issuing a statement in December that proclaimed his innocence and said that accusers were making up their stories. She is not charged in the case.
In her testimony she said she knew several of the accusers, some well. Some of them, she said, were “clingy” around her husband while another was “charming.” Nearly all would stay overnight in the Sandusky home and her husband “would tell them good night,” she said.
One witness testified last week that he was attacked by Jerry Sandusky in the basement of the ex-coach’s home and cried out for help when Dottie Sandusky was upstairs. She, however, said the basement was not soundproof and she would have been able to hear shouting if she was upstairs.
She also rebutted one victim’s claim that Sandusky tried to engage in oral sex with him while in a hotel bathroom at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. The man said the assault was interrupted when Dottie Sandusky walked into an adjoining room.
“They were just standing ... in a hallway kind of thing... they had their clothes on, they were fully clothed,” she said.
The psychologist, Elliot Atkins, told jurors that he diagnosed Sandusky with histrionic personality disorder after talking with the ex-coach for six hours.
People with the disorder often interact with others in inappropriately seductive ways and don’t feel comfortable unless they’re the center of attention, Atkins explained.
“Often these are people who did not have as much success in relationships — emotional or romantic — (and) relationships in life,” he said, responding to questions from Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola.
According to the National Institutes of Health, histrionic personality disorder occurs more often in women than in men.
Sandusky’s attorney is hoping to convince jurors that the disorder could explain his client’s letters to the accuser known as Victim 4 and other interaction that prosecutors allege show his grooming of victims.
A prosecution psychologist, John Sebastian O’Brien II, however, testified that Sandusky was a man who juggled many tasks at once, something not akin to the disorder.
“I don’t see anything in any of that information to suggest he was a person with a personality disorder that caused him any problems,” O’Brien said.
Amendola also questioned two state police investigators about what details they shared during interviews with the alleged victims, in particular with Victim 4.
Amendola asked retired Cpl. Joseph Leiter if investigators told interviewees about others who had stepped forward.
“In some of our interviews ... we did tell them,” he said.
Asked why, Leiter said it was to let possible victims know they were not alone.
“Each of these accusers was very, very seriously injured, and very concerned, and we had told them — especially prior to going to the grand jury — that they wouldn’t be alone, that there were others,” Leiter said.
Leiter said that did not include sharing individual accusers’ recollections of abuse, such as specific sex acts.
“We never told them what anyone else had ever told us,” he said.
But Amendola later read Leiter portions of an interview transcript in which the investigator told the accuser that others had reported abuse that progressed to oral sex and rape.
Victim 4, now 28, testified last week that Sandusky sexually abused him in the locker-room showers and in hotels for five years while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips to bowl games.
On the stand, he admitted that he lied to police and his own lawyer about the alleged abuse, saying he had “denied it forever.” But he testified calmly and firmly, saying Sandusky performed oral sex on him and sent him “creepy love letters.”
The man’s attorney, Ben Andreozzi, also was called to the stand and asked about a discussion he had with investigators during a break in an interview with his client.
On a difficult-to-hear recording of the discussion, Andreozzi and Leiter can be heard talking about the investigation while the accuser is out of the room.
Andreozzi acknowledged to jurors that a guilty verdict in Sandusky’s trial could have an impact on his client if he files a civil lawsuit, but he told the court that hadn’t been decided yet.
Andreozzi also denied coaching his client on what to say to investigators.
“He viewed Jerry as a father figure to him. It’s been extremely difficult talking about this publicly,” Andreozzi said.
The defense appeared to catch one of the investigators in a lie after recalling him to the stand.
Trooper Scott Rossman said that he hadn’t spoken to Leiter about their testimony after he first left the stand Tuesday, but Leiter said they had talked about it.
Meanwhile, another witness told jurors she knew Victim 4 through her brother and that he had a reputation for “dishonesty and embellished stories.” The woman, who said her brother was the alleged victim’s best friend, is an Iraq war veteran who suffered a brain injury before she was discharged.
The defense 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.
Earlier today, Amendola told reporters to “stay tuned” to find out if Sandusky would take the stand himself, comparing the case to a soap opera. Asked which soap opera, Amendola initially said “General Hospital,” then “All My Children.”
Prosecutors rested their case Monday after presenting 21 witnesses, including eight who said they had been assaulted by Sandusky. The identities of two other alleged victims are unknown to investigators.
Sandusky’s arrest led the university trustees to fire Paterno as coach in November, saying his response to the 2001 report from McQueary showed a lack of leadership. Paterno died of cancer in January.
By taking the stand, Dottie Sandusky has presumably waived any right not to testify against her husband, one prominent Philadelphia defense lawyer said.
Spouses can assert spousal immunity to avoid testifying about anything said in confidence to them by their spouse. But Dottie Sandusky has presumably agreed to waive that privilege since she took the stand, lawyer Brian McMonagle said.
“They’re doing that to show he’s got a wife, he’s normal, kids came over and slept there and there’s never a problem,” McMonagle said. “They want to paint him as normal as they can. I’m sure she’s probably going to be an effective witness in that regard.”