Before getting to the point today, I need to explain that I’ve been an attorney for a long time. Over the course of my career I’ve handled virtually every manner of civil and criminal legal matter. More to my point here today, I’ve tried cases brought against people accused of sexual misconduct, including civil and criminal defense of priests accused of the very same thing as former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. It is a difficult position to be in from both the perspective of a defense attorney. So I say this with an acute understanding of the pressures facing both Sandusky and his lawyers….
Have you people lost your minds?
Mr. Sandusky is in a world of trouble. He’s facing a series of criminal charges accusing him of sexually assaulting children who were receiving support and service from Sandusky’s “Second Mile” charity. The case appears strong and it broke this fall when it was revealed that a student assistant at Penn State, Mike McQuery, in 2002 observed Sandusky and a young boy in a shower. McQueary said that Sandusky and the boy were naked, and that “the boy was up against the wall, facing the wall and Jerry was directly behind him in a very close position.” He characterized what he observed as some form of “intercourse”…..so it is clear that Mr. Sandusky is staring at the real prospect of prison.
In these stressful situations it is not uncommon for defendants and their attorneys to make key mistakes. Many clients feel a compelling desire to speak out due to the knowledge that they did not commit any crime, and then there are those who want to speak out because they have deluded themselves into believing that they are innocent. Given Sandusky’s remarks it appears that he may be in the latter category. Regardless of which type of defendant we are dealing with, if there is a constant in this business it is that client’s should not speak to the police or the prosecutor unless it is in the context of a cooperation or plea deal. In my view a client should never speak with the media in a case of this nature, a case where there is no ability to offer an alibi or a compelling argument that the crime could not have been committed. Nothing can be gained because the indictments will not be withdrawn and there is the real risk that prospective jurors will be exposed to the statements and the way in which they were said. So it was with great interest akin to rubber necking at the scene of a freeway accident that I listened to Sandusky’s interview with Bob Costas. That was just the most bizarre thing I’d ever heard in a sexual assault case as Sandusky admitted to horsing around while showering with children. He admitted “hugging them” and touching their legs “without intent of sexual contact.” But the real killer was “Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?… Sexually attracted? You know, [no], I enjoy young people…”
My first reaction was that this knucklehead needed an attorney and he needed one fast. I was flabbergasted when I read that Sandusky was represented by counsel and that the Sandusky interview with Costas was originally supposed to be an interview with his attorney. I get it, I really do…my partner and I once agreed to allow a 48 Hours crew to follow us in a case where a mentally challenged homeless woman started a fire that claimed the life of six firefighters. The difference is that we did not give any access to our client nor did we make any statements likely to enrage people….so spare me the tired nonsense that you Mr. Amendola know better than the rest of us….you clearly made a terrible mistake because your client sounded like an idiot.
You see Mr. Sandusky, we don’t allow old men to shower with youngsters, and if you were their father it would still be creepy and wrong. There it is…there’s the word for this – creepy. It is creepy because the defendant doesn’t get it and as an attorney it is creepier still that the defendant’s attorney sat by while the bizarre interview was conducted.
Mr. Amendola, your client sounded guilty, and possibly mentally challenged, if what he was trying to defend was this idea that an elderly adult should be “horseplaying” with children while showering naked with them. Now maybe it’s just my New England upbringing, you know that old Puritan thing, but I would say that Mr. Sandusky is in a world of hurt if the best he can muster is something along the lines of “Is that wrong?”. It was funny when Jason Alexander said it on the Seinfeld television show; oh it is still sort of funny – just in a different way.
But, let’s not overreact, the case hasn’t really even started and Mr. Sandusky and his lawyer have plenty of time to allow his remarks to fade…people won’t even remember the interview…..just don’t do it again. Right? Wrong. Fast forward to December 3, 2011 and the determined duo of Sandusky and Amendola sit down with Jo Becker of the New York Times, and once again, prove that these two cats don’t seem to understand the situation. In that interview Sandusky again has trouble explaining exactly how it is that he “likes” boys….which again misses the point. A Penn State assistant observed you in the shower with a boy in what the assistant described as an inappropriate position….why do these two feel compelled to explain what Sandusky meant when he said he “liked boys”, who cares. If you are going to defend yourself in the court of public opinion would you please tell us that you weren’t naked in a shower with a boy embracing him from behind….and why it’s all just a big mistake.
Enter the newest member of the Pennsylvania version of the “Dream Team”…..Karl Rominger. Finally, someone who can help us to understand why this is just an innocent misunderstanding….Mr. Rominger, you have the floor sir: “Some of these kids don’t have basic hygiene skills,” attorney Karl Rominger said. “Teaching a person to shower at the age of 12 or 14 sounds strange to some people, but people who work with troubled youth will tell you there are a lot of juvenile delinquents and people who are dependent who have to be taught basic life skills like how to put soap on their body.” What is it that people say today…OMFG…..what is the color of the sky in your world Mr. Rominger? You see, Mr. Rominger, we here on Planet Earth tend to take a dim view of the assault of children – even “juvenile delnquents”. Here’s a newsflash Skippy, you are spending way too much of your time trying to explain away an inexplicable fact pattern and the stupidity of your client speaking out….the whole wide world finds it “strange” that Sandusky would be showing 12-14 year old kids how to apply soap to their bodies by getting into a shower with them…..you guys are not even trying here….not even close. But Rominger did make one comment that is partially correct: “The problem is if you’re an innocent person who’s not articulate, you’re not going to come across well, but you’re still innocent,” Rominger said “A guilty person who is very articulate might come across innocent. So it’s not a fair fight.” You are right, it is not a fair fight. Perhaps if you and co-counsel would shut the hell up and muzzle up the creepy looking old guy with novel views of man/boy relationships it would be a fairer fight….now shut up and figure out how you can explain why your client had a naked kid pinned up against a shower wall….in other words boys, defend your client.