LOS ANGELES — The case against Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach accused of sex abuse, moves into a criminal courtroom Tuesday, when as many as 10 men could testify publicly for the first time about what prosecutors allege was years of child abuse.
The preliminary hearing on criminal charges against Sandusky will last at least a day in front of a judge who gets to rule on whether there is enough evidence for the former coach to stand trial on child abuse charges.
Sandusky, in interviews with NBC News and The New York Times, has admitted to showering with some boys, but has denied any criminal wrongdoing. He has been strongly backed by his wife, who also insists he is innocent.
Although the outcome of the hearing is expected to lead to more proceedings, the drama from a parade of accusers is expected to be high.
“We plan to proceed with Jerry’s hearing, and Jerry is looking forward to the opportunity to face his accusers,” Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, told The Associated Press today. He added that Sandusky is also dreading the experience.
“You can imagine; he’s going to have to sit in a courtroom with a couple hundred people — I understand it’s going to be filled to capacity, including members of his family, and friends — who are going to listen to these young men say horrific things occurred between them and Jerry,” the lawyer said.
Sandusky, who will be 68 next month, is charged with more than 50 counts of child sex abuse involving 10 boys he met through a children’s charity, the Second Mile, that he founded. Sandusky brought some of the children to Penn State on outings.
According to the grand jury presentation, Michael McQueary, a graduate assistant who later became an assistant football coach, said he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the school’s showers and told the top coach, Joe Paterno. The head coach then passed it on to other university officials.
The grand jury questioned the role of the university and other top officials in dealing with Sandusky.
Amid outrage over the scandal, the university’s board of trustees removed Paterno and forced out university President Graham Spanier. Athletic Director Tim Curley was placed on administrative leave, and Vice President Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university’s police department, stepped down. Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to the grand jury and failure to report the incident to police.
It was unclear whether McQueary will testify at the hearing. Prosecutors often try to present the minimum needed to force a trial without giving the defense an early shot at key prosecution witnesses. Nor was it clear whether Sandusky would take the stand, which would give the prosecution a chance to question the coach under oath.
Sandusky was charged last month, but two new accusers came forward last week and more charges have been leveled. In the latest, one of the accusers said he cried out for help when he was assaulted in Sandusky’s basement bedroom.
“I am so sad anyone would make such a terrible accusation which is absolutely untrue,” Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, said in a statement released last week. “We don’t know why these young men have made these false accusations, but we want everyone to know they are untrue.”
In her statement, Dottie Sandusky thanked supporters and said her husband was innocent.