BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers finished putting on their case Wednesday without calling the former Penn State assistant football coach to the stand to rebut child sex abuse allegations that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.
The sudden end to the defense’s presentation came on the seventh day of the trial, during which the jury heard from eight men — now 18 to 28 — who said the former coach sexually assaulted them after they met him through the charity he founded.
Sandusky is charged with 51 criminal counts for alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. He has denied the allegations but acknowledged in interviews following his arrest that he had showered with boys.
The accusers described for jurors a range of sexual abuse at his hands, from allegations of grooming and fondling to oral sex and forced anal sex that one young man said left him injured. The identities of two other alleged victims are unknown to investigators.
The defense has suggested the accusers have financial motivations for their claims and were improperly influenced by investigators. They also put on character witnesses who spoke of Sandusky’s sound reputation. Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, took the stand Tuesday and said she never saw him act inappropriately with the accusers.
The defense rested after an approximately 40-minute closed-door meeting involving attorneys, Sandusky and the judge overseeing the case. Under Pennsylvania law, a defendant must waive his right to testify on his own behalf, but it doesn’t have to happen in open court.
The next steps in the trial are jury instructions and then closing arguments, set for Thursday morning.
Earlier Wednesday, the defense sought to undercut testimony from a former graduate assistant who told jurors he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy inside a football facility shower more than a decade ago.
Dr. Jonathan Dranov, a family friend of Mike McQueary, said he spoke to McQueary the night McQueary claimed to have seen Sandusky engaging in a sex act with a boy of about 10.
Dranov testified that McQueary described hearing “sexual sounds” and seeing a boy in the shower and an arm reach around him and pull him out of view. McQueary said he made eye-contact with the boy and Sandusky later emerged from the showers, Dranov said.
That account differs from what McQueary told a grand jury that investigated Sandusky and what he told jurors last week.
McQueary testified he saw Sandusky pressing a boy up against the wall inside the shower, and that he had no doubt he was witnessing anal sex. McQueary’s report to his superiors — and Penn State officials’ failure to go to outside law enforcement — is what ultimately led to the firing of longtime coach Joe Paterno.
Dranov told the jury that McQueary didn’t provide him with a graphic description of what he saw, but described hearing sounds he considered sexual in nature.
“It just seemed to make him upset so I backed off that,” Dranov said.
When prosecutors asked Dranov to describe McQueary’s demeanor, he said the former Penn State starting quarterback was clearly upset.
“His voice was trembling. His hands were shaking. He was visibly shaken,” Dranov said.
McQueary had testified earlier in the trial that he wasn’t “over-descriptive” in his conversation with Dranov, saying he told the doctor that what he saw was sexual, wrong and perverse.
The morning also featured testimony from more defense character witnesses, including a couple of participants in Sandusky’s youth charity, The Second Mile. Prosecutors allege that Sandusky met his alleged victims through The Second Mile, which once was lauded for its efforts to help at-risk children but now appears headed for closure as a result of the scandal.
One of the former Second Mile participants, David Hilton, said he felt like investigators were trying to coach him into accusing Sandusky.
“When it got to the second or third time I felt like they wanted me to say something that isn’t true,” he said.
The defense has sought to portray investigators as planting the seeds for accusations against Sandusky by sharing details of other alleged victims’ claims.
The defense rested after calling 28 witnesses.
Before the start of testimony Wednesday, a female juror was excused for an illness and replaced by an alternate, also a woman.
At the close of the court session, Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger asked Judge John Cleland to dismiss five counts related to so-called Victim 10, a boy never identified by investigators.
A Penn State janitor reportedly told co-workers he saw the boy being molested by Sandusky in a football team shower. The janitor was not medically competent to testify, but a co-worker took the stand to describe what the man told him.
Rominger argued that those charges should be dismissed because there was no evidence to back up the alleged offense date listed in a court document known as the bill of particulars. Prosecutor Frank Fina said the relevant document was not the bill of particulars, but rather the “criminal information,” and Cleland allowed him to submit a written response before he would rule on the matter.