Defense Rests In Jerry Sandusky's Sex-Abuse Trial

Closing arguments are expected Thursday in the child sex-abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky. The defense for the former Penn State assistant football coach rested Wednesday without Sandusky taking the stand. Sandusky denies charges that he sexually abused ten boys over 15 years.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Closing arguments are getting underway this morning in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky. The former assistant coach at Penn State now faces 48 counts in connection with the scandal that rocked the school last year. The judge this morning dismissed three other counts after a witness declined to testify in support of those charges. Yesterday, the defense rested without calling Sandusky to testify on his own behalf.

NPR's Joel Rose has been covering this trial, joins us now. And we should warn you that some of the descriptions of the testimony will be disturbing to some listeners. We'll be talking here to Joel for about four minutes.

Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Of course, Jerry Sandusky did not testify. Other defense witnesses did. What is the defense for this man?

ROSE: The defense is trying to undermine the credibility of the witnesses who have alleged that they were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky. And they're also trying to undermine the credibility of the man who says he saw Jerry Sandusky sexually assault a young man in the showers. That was Mike McQueary. He's a prosecution witness in the case and he was a graduate assistant at Penn State in 2001. And he testified that he saw Sandusky in a shower at Penn State engaging in a sex act with a young boy. And the next day, McQueary told the head coach, Joe Paterno.

But first, but query sought advice from his father and from a family friend named Jonathan Dranoff. And yesterday the defense called Jonathan Dranoff to testify, and he said that McQueary told him a slightly different version of the story on that night 11 years ago. And in that version of the story, McQueary did not actually claim that he saw sexual contact between Sandusky and the young boy.

So you can see the defense is trying to hurt the credibility of Mike McQueary here, who is a critical independent eyewitness. But in both versions of the story, McQueary saw Sandusky in the shower with a young boy who has never been identified. And in both versions, McQueary was clearly very shaken and very disturbed by what he had seen. So I'm not sure what how much the defense actually accomplished - what it was trying to accomplish.

INSKEEP: And even if McQueary was discredited, is he really the only eyewitness here? Or are there others that the prosecution put on the stand?

ROSE: Well, the prosecution put a number of young men on the stand who say that they were abused as young boys. McQueary was really the independent witness here. But the prosecution called a total of eight young men who say they were sexually abused, in some cases for years, by the defendant.

INSKEEP: And so what does that add up to in the prosecutor's mind? We're going to hear their closing arguments today.

ROSE: Prosecutors are trying to paint a picture of Jerry Sandusky identifying young boys from troubled backgrounds through his charity, The Second Mile. They say he would befriend them by taking them out to activities, including football games and that eventually he would shower with them and then force them to engage in sex acts, both in his house in state college and in hotel rooms. And the prosecution has put a number of witnesses on the stand who've testified in open court, often quite tearfully about what they say they suffered at Sandusky's hands.

INSKEEP: One other thing, Joel Rose. We mentioned that Jerry Sandusky did not testify. That's not all that unusual. Many defendants are not called to the stand to testify on their own behalf. But his wife was called to testify. What does she add here, if anything?

ROSE: Well, Dorothy Sandusky was probably the most effective witness that the defense was able to put on in this case. She was married to Jerry Sandusky for 45 years. And, you know, she seemed a little bit nervous as she testified, but said in no uncertain terms that she never saw any inappropriate behavior by her husband with any of the kids, who are now his accusers, and you know, was asked about them and said she remembered most of them and remembered most of them as very nice young men.

But then when she was asked by the prosecution why these kids would lie, Dorothy Sandusky did not really have a good answer to that. But I think defense lawyers are going to offer their own theory. They're going to say that the alleged victims are opportunists who stand to benefit financially if Sandusky is found guilty in this case.

And the defense is going to offer the theory that once law enforcement and the media got wind of the initial allegations against Sandusky, other alleged victims came forward and started telling their own stories about him. And that is why all of the allegations against him sound so similar.

INSKEEP: Joel, thanks very much.

ROSE: Anytime.

INSKEEP: NPR's Joel Rose is covering the Jerry Sandusky trial.

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