Last night Bob Costas interviewed Jerry Sandusky via telephone. Airing at 9 central, the interview was must-watch television. Why? Because it’s altogether likely that Jerry Sandusky will never take the witness stand in his own defense. Not after this performance with Costas. Sandusky appeared scatterbrained, slow, and his answers lacked specificity. When you’re asked whether or not you’re sexually attracted to young boys, your answer has to be no. Quickly. That’s not a difficult question for most of us. At least if you profess your innocence. Instead it took Sandusky over sixteen seconds to get around to acknowledging that he wasn’t really attracted to boys.
Costas’s questioning was direct and confrontational. This was, for all intents and purposes, likely to be Costas’s “A Few Good Men” moment, when he turned Sandusky into a stammering liar. But at least Colonel Jessup equaled the fire with brimstone of his own, Sandusky’s meandering, grandfatherly answers, weren’t those of a monster; they were merely those of a man who appears to have no understanding of the seriousness of his peril. It’s no surprise that anyone who read the grand jury report could consider Sandusky a monster, but it is a surprise that Sandusky still doesn’t seem to realize that the rest of the country considers him a monster.
What’s he been doing for the past week?
That lack of self-awareness was the overwhelming message that reverberated throughout the interview. Sandusky sounded like a man charged with speeding through a school zone one time instead of a man accused of terrorizing school children for decades.
Here’s the video for those of you who didn’t see it, and then ten more thoughts about Sandusky’s legal defense and more.
1. Why in the world did Sandusky’s lawyer, Joseph Amendola, let his client appear for this interview?
It makes zeo sense. There is absolutely nothing that can be gained from Sandusky speaking out now. Especially if, as is the case here, your client is such a bad witness. Recall that in the Duke Lacrosse case several of the players made statements professing their innocence. That’s proper. But none of those players took questions from the media.
It’s one thing if your client appears without your notice, but to allow him to appear while you sit there and listen to him?
Almost as indefensible as taking this case despite the fact that you got a 17 year old girl pregnant when you were 49. Ouch. Also, the 17 year old girl, who you impregnated and later married? She wasn’t happy about you telling Bob Costas you would allow your kids to be left alone with Sandusky.
Per The Daily this was her Facebook status:
“OMG did Joe just say that he would allow my kids to be alone with Jerry Sandusky?”
It doesn’t sound like the lawyer’s own Lolita would be a very strong juror in his client’s defense.
2. If your client is going on television for an interview, how do you not coach him in advance?
Even if you make the decision to allow your client to speak, don’t you owe it to him to prepare for the grilling of a lifetime?
Costas’s questions were tough, but they were all based on the grand jury report. He didn’t drop any bombshells or ask anything that was unexpected.
In three hours of preparation you could have Sandusky drilled to answer the questions exactly as you’d like them answered.
None of Sandusky’s answers were forceful or well thought out. In fact, they were all awful. How does that happen? How can you compound the error of allowing your client to speak while at the same time not preparing him to speak?
3. Sandusky’s answers were meandering and roundabout, but in print they don’t look as bad.
If you’re going to have your client speak, why not allow him to do it in print and then insist that the entirety of the transcript is used? Record it if necessary. Hell, why not ask the questions yourself, tape your client, and send out a transcript of the resulting answers. If it sounds good on tape, send that out too. Every network would use that audio.
Don’t send the transcript until you’re certain that all of Sandusky’s answers square with the defense you have planned.
4. Amendola, the lawyer, failed even more because he actually had evidence that helped his client.
Amendola told Costas that he and Sandusky had located the boy in question in the Mike McQueary allegation and the boy says he wasn’t raped:
“We expect we’re going to have a number of kids. Now how many of those so-called eight kids, we’re not sure. But we anticipate we’re going to have at least several of those kids come forward and say this never happened. This is me. This is the allegation. It never occurred. In fact, one of the toughest allegations — the McQueary violations — what McQueary said he saw, we have information that that child says that never happened. Now grown up… now the person’s in his twenties.”
That would have been the headline if the lawyer had just allowed himself to be interviewed by Costas.
Instead, no one is even taking note of this fact. If true, this is a major revelation. Why not stick with this as the news to emerge from the interview? The lawyer could have attacked these charges as the work of an overeager prosecutor. It’s probably a crap defense, but it could have at least instilled some doubt in some members of the public.
Instead, Sandusky spoke and we’re even more convinced of his guilt than we were before he spoke.
5. You can already see where this defense is heading: Sandusky will follow the Michael Jackson path and argue he’s just a big kid.
Yes, he took showers with the boys, yes, he hugged and touched them, but none of those acts were sexual in nature. A similar defense worked for Michael Jackson.
Here are a couple of thoughts on that:
a. Rural Pennsylvania is not Los Angeles.
Will jurors in Pennsylvania be willing to buy this defense? It seems unlikely. But, keep in mind, only one person needs to buy it for Sandusky to walk.
b. Sandusky is not a celebrity in the traditional sense.
He’s just a regular guy who has been living in Happy Valley for decades. No one is going to be in awe of Sandusky. Does that help or hurt him? No idea. But you definitely got the sense that Jackson was immensely helped by his celebrity status.
How quickly we forget allegations like these in the event of a not-guilty verdict. When Jackson died how much did you hear about his past as an alleged child abuser? Hardly anything, right?
The real issue here is that Jackson’s lawyers were able to convince jurors that kids had a motive to lie. That motive? Cash. What motive do Sandusky’s accusers have to make up stories?
6. Why would kids make up sexual assault allegations against Sandusky?
This is the toughest question for the defense to answer. The Michael Jackson defense team could point to Jackson’s immense wealth as a reason why a kid or a parent might make up or exaggerate a sexual assault. Because they hoped to cash in from an ensuing civil lawsuit. But what would the motive be for multiple kids — now grown men — to make up stories about Jerry Sandusky molesting them?
This is the question that I don’t think jurors are going to get past. Okay, one kid might lie. But seven or eight? Twenty? Why would grown men want to confront Sandusky now if nothing actually happened? What is a false accuser actually gaining? Keep in mind that these accusers will have to testify in court and that in our Internet age many will lose the cloak of anonymity.
Now, you can argue that a civil suit is their goal as well, but that civil suit would have to recover against Penn State for the damages to be substantial. Sandusky doesn’t have enough money to change anyone’s lifestyle. Do you really think kids out there are making up stories about Jerry Sandusky so that they can make millions of dollars off Penn State.
It’s too attenuated.
7. Now a caveat on the television interview: Do Sandusky and Amendola want to try this case in Happy Valley?
If so, is Amendola actually smarter than we think? By allowing his client to appear on national television has he undercut any argument that a change of venue is appropriate? Everyone in Pennsylvania knows about this case, right? Especially after this interview aired on a non-sports network. The Sandusky case has transcended sports. That’s incredibly rare.
So how can you argue that a change of venue is appropriate?
If you’re Sandusky don’t you want to be tried in the town you’ve called home for forty years? This is one of those relatively rare cases where the defendant doesn’t want to move.
8. One thing I keep coming back to: what does Penn State know about the Mike McQueary incident?
Even if you didn’t turn this information over to the police, wouldn’t you want to check the easily accessible records for yourself? I would have. For instance, wouldn’t there be multiple cameras that capture people coming and going to the Penn State facilities? That way you could have seen Sandusky and the boy enter the complex. Wouldn’t there be a record of key-card entry and exit times? I’m sure there aren’t cameras in the actual locker room, but there have to be cameras near the locker room entrances and in other places in the complex, right?
We’re talking about 2002 here, not 1972.
What happened to that evidence?
If you had half a brain wouldn’t your first thought be to nail down as many facts as you could? What better way than by reviewing the tapes from the facility? Was that evidence destroyed? Did anyone at Penn State actually ever examine these tapes? That could loom large.
9. Whether or not Sandusky will be convicted will ultimately boil down to this question: who is Jerry Sandusky?
The defense is going to argue that Sandusky is a grandfatherly figure who gave his life to helping kids who had no father figures in their lives. They will present a ton of character witnesses who will testify to this fact. They also have something else in their favor, so far there are no victims from before 1998.
If you’re a pedophile you don’t suddenly begin to molest children at the age of 54. Why did it take until 1998 for any allegations of impropriety to emerge?
Or, as the case very well may be, will there actually be even older witnesses?
If you’re the prosecution, you want Sandusky to resemble a monster. But can the white-haired, stammering elderly man at the defense table ever live up to our expectations of a monster? Sandusky may very well be guilty of heinous acts, but can we square those acts with the appearance of the man who sits in front of us in the courtroom? The scariest thing about Jerry Sandusky in a courtroom may well end up being that he looks and acts an awful lot like our own grandfathers.
We crave an arrogant, unrepentant villain. Instead, we may well have just a meek old man.
10. Ultimately, no matter what, go back to the tape, should it take you sixteen seconds to deny your sexual attraction to young boys?
How long would it take you if you were asked that question?
It took Jerry Sandusky over sixteen seconds to make any denial.
That was fifteen seconds too long for me.