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State court rejects bid to delay Penn State sex abuse case
June 4, 2012 / 4:35 PM / 5 years ago

State court rejects bid to delay Penn State sex abuse case

Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State football defensive coordinator, arrives for a hearing at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania April 5, 2012. REUTERS/Pat Little

BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch attempt to delay former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse trial, meaning the case will go forward with jury selection on Tuesday.

Sandusky’s attorneys have filed several motions for delays, arguing they needed more time to go over evidence. The high court rejected the request on Monday in a one-paragraph decision posted on its website.

Defense attorney Joe Amendola said in an emailed statement: “Based on the Supreme Court’s decision earlier today regarding our continuance request, I’ll see everyone in court in the morning.”

Sandusky, 68, a former Penn State assistant football coach, is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, some of them in Penn State football facilities. He has pleaded not guilty and could face a prison sentence of more than 500 years if convicted on all counts.

The allegations shook the school and focused national attention on the issue of child sexual abuse.

Jury selection begins on Tuesday in the small town of Bellefonte, about 10 miles northeast of State College where the Penn State campus is located and where some of the abuse was alleged to have taken place.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court’s decision came the same day the judge overseeing the case ruled that Sandusky’s alleged victims will not be allowed to use fake names to hide their identities during the trial.

Five of those boys Sandusky is alleged to have abused - known as Victims 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in court documents - filed motions last week asking for the permission to use pseudonyms.

But Judge John Cleland said he could not allow their true identities to be hidden during the public trial.

“Secrecy is thought to be inconsistent with the openness required to assure the public that the law is being administered fairly and applied faithfully,” Cleland wrote in his order dismissing the request.

“It is argued in the motions that for an alleged victim of a sexual assault to fulfill that responsibility is so uniquely embarrassing that the person should be protected by being able to conceal his name. But why should any class of witnesses be protected? No victim of crime, after all, is spared the trauma of crime’s effects - and the severity of the trauma does not necessarily mirror the nature of the crime,” the judge said.

Cleland called the motions for pseudonyms “complicated, even controversial.”

NO TWEETS, EMAILS FROM COURT

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape said last week it would not be in the best interests of public safety to force alleged Sandusky victims to reveal their true identities.

“Sex offenders continue their behaviors until they are caught and stopped, and the only way that we know who those people are is when victims are brave enough to come forth and tell us,” said PCAR spokeswoman Kristen Houser.

Judge Cleland also issued a ruling Monday barring reporters from using Twitter or email to post reports on the trial from the courthouse.

In his response to major media companies, which wanted him to clarify his decorum order governing the use of electronic media during the proceedings, Cleland said journalists may use their electronic “tools of the trade” to write quotes and details about the unfolding case.

But he said they may not tweet or email “any form of communication to any person or device either in or out of the courthouse or courthouse annex.”

The New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street journal, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the Pennsylvania Newspapers Association and others wanted Cleland to modify his decorum order to allow the verbatim tweeting and emailing of courtroom events, which reporters have done at every pre-trial event to date.

Cleland said allowing tweets or emails during jury selection and the trial might “impact the judge’s ability to assure a fair trial could be conducted.”

Additional reporting by Mark Shade; editing by Paul Thomasch and Cynthia Osterman

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