Sandusky’s dinner with alleged victims raises new legal questions
While under investigation by a criminal grand jury for allegedly sexually abusing young boys, Jerry Sandusky said he spoke to and even dined with men now identified as his victims. The 67-year-old former Penn State assistant coach accused of sexually abusing young boys for more than a decade holds up these encounters as proof of his innocence, but a lawyer for at least one of the victims believes they could be criminal.
“One of the questions that raised in my mind, ‘Was this an effort on his part to tamper with witnesses?’” said Howard Janet, a Baltimore attorney representing the man known in the grand jury report of Sandusky as Victim 6. “Was it intended as a way to influence the public or the perspective jury pool?”
In early November, Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing boys over a period of about 14 years. But the community knew of the investigation months earlier.
The story went public on March 31, when the Patriot News newspaper broke the story that a grand jury had been convened to look into allegations that Sandusky abused a 15-year-old Clinton County, Pa., boy, now known as Victim 1.
The following day, Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, issued a statement saying that his client was prepared to fight.
“Should the allegations, as set forth in today’s newspaper article eventually lead to the institution of criminal charges against Jerry, Jerry fully intends to establish his innocence and put these false allegations to rest forever,” he said.
Interviews with lawyers and the grand jury report show that in the months that followed, Sandusky made several attempts to contact boys who had participated in the charity he founded — the Second Mile - and who later testified before the grand jury, prompting Janet to question whether Sandusky tried to sway the outcome of the investigation.
Witness tampering in the state of Pennsylvania is defined as any act with the intent to intimidate a witness or victim to “refrain from reporting a crime, withhold or give false or misleading information, or to ignore or evade requests for information or a summons.”
Under state penal codes, witness tampering is considered equal to the most serious offense a defendant is charged with. Among the charges against Sandusky are multiple first-degree felonies, which carry maximum sentences of up to 20 years in prison.
Sandusky has not been charged with tampering or intimidation of witnesses.