* Public statements by Sandusky can be used against him
* May have eliminated some legal options: ex-prosecutor
* Denial of sexual attraction lacked "authority"-lawyer
* Tactic may have won him some sympathy - law professor
By Andrew Longstreth and Carlyn Kolker
NEW YORK, Nov 15 Criminal defendants have the
right to remain silent. But former Penn State football coach
Jerry Sandusky just became a test case for what happens when
Sandusky embarked on a dangerous path when he publicly
defended himself against child sex abuse charges during a
hastily arranged press interview on Monday, according to legal
and crisis management experts.
In a telephone interview with NBC's Bob Costas that was
broadcast on national television, Sandusky said that he is not
a pedophile, but he admitted he had showered with young boys.
By answering questions from a journalist, Sandusky opted to
disregard the advice that most defense lawyers give clients who
have been criminally charged: keep quiet.
"In terms of the legal consequences, it's nothing but a
potentially bad situation for him," said Ronald Allen, a
professor at Northwestern University School of Law. "Nothing
good can come from a prospective defendant giving a public
interview. From the legal point of view it's really
Any statements Sandusky makes could be used against him in
court, said Allen, because they are not legally considered
hearsay. A general rule of evidence in criminal cases is that a
public statement can be used in court testimony by any person
testifying against the defendant, said Allen.
Sandusky was charged by the Pennsylvania attorney general
with sexually abusing eight children over more than a decade.
Sandusky has denied the charges and he is free on bail.
The scandal has damaged the reputation of Penn State, where
some of the alleged abuses took place, and led to the ouster of
its president, and its legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
During the interview with Costas, Sandusky acknowledged
that he "should not have showered with those kids."
He also told Costas: "I have hugged them and I have touched
their leg without intent of sexually contact."
By making those admissions, Sandusky eliminated some
options he may have had in developing his legal strategy, said
Aitan Goelman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense
attorney at the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder.
"To the extent that Sandusky testifies, he's now he's
locked into his story," said Goelman. "It's mind-boggling how
that cannot be a disaster."
Richard Levick, a crisis public relations expert and a
trained lawyer, said that at times during the interview,
Sandusky was successful at portraying himself as a "human
being" who is committed to children.
But Levick said Sandusky failed when Costas asked Sandusky
whether he was sexually attracted to boys.
Sandusky did not directly reply immediately, but eventually
he said no.
"He hemmed and he hawed and he sounded a lot worse than the
husband who gets asked, 'Honey does this dress make me look
fat?'" said Levick. "He wasn't able to answer it with the kind
of authority that an innocent person should."
Levick said he likely would have advised Sandusky to issue
a written statement pronouncing his innocence. The interview
allowed Costas to "drive the narrative," Levick said.
It is unclear who made the decision for Sandusky to speak
on his own behalf. On Tuesday, Costas said in an appearance on
the television show "Morning Joe" that he was expecting to
speak with Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola.
About 15 minutes before the interview, Amendola said
Sandusky would be available to speak.
"We pivoted and made it an interview with Sandusky," Costas
ANOTHER HIGH-PROFILE DEFENDANT
While it's not unheard of to take to the airwaves before
trial -- Michael Jackson and Timothy McVeigh both tried it as
well -- at least one other high-profile defendant has recently
gotten dinged over his public appearances.
Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich went on something
of a public roadshow proclaiming his innocence before his two
trials on corruption charges, holding press conferences and
appearing on MSNBC and ABC's "Good Morning America."
His TV appearances sparked strong admonitions from the
judge overseeing the case, and prosecutors used his public
statements against him at trial, accusing him of lying about
his FBI interview.
"That happened so early in the cross examination that it
really laid bare the folly of letting a defendant talk to the
press," said Lance Northcutt, a defense attorney in Chicago who
teaches trial advocacy at John Marshall Law School.
Blagojevich was convicted in June on 17 counts of fraud,
soliciting bribes and conspiracy.
HAIL MARY PASS?
While it's usually ill-advised to talk to the media,
Sandusky's situation may be different because he is so
embattled, said Stuart Green, a professor at Rutgers School of
Law in Newark, New Jersey.
"The man's reputation is so tattered that he is trying to
save some sense of dignity."
"I don't know what he can lose at this point," said Green.
"There's so much evidence and so much fury; I guess if he can
achieve some sympathy, he might help himself."