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Ex-Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers argue for new trial

HARRISBURG — Jerry Sandusky will appear in court on Monday as his lawyers seek to persuade a judge to give the former Penn State assistant football coach an opportunity to argue for a new trial after his 2012 conviction on child sexual abuse charges.

Sandusky, 72, who is serving an effective life sentence in a state prison for molesting 10 boys, will appear before visiting Judge John Cleland in Centre County Court of Common Pleas in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

His lawyers will argue that Sandusky was wrongfully convicted after a trial that rocked the university, raised questions about Penn State’s fabled sports program and drew fresh attention to the issue of sexual abuse of young people.

“This is a story of how the media, overzealous law enforcement, a biased grand jury judge, prosecutorial malfeasance, a discredited and pseudo-scientific type of therapy, and serial instances of ineffective assistance of counsel resulted in transforming an innocent man into one of the country’s most infamous child predators,” lawyer Alexander Lindsay wrote in the petition.

State prosecutors vehemently disagree, saying in their response that the former Penn State assistant football coach’s proclamations of innocence “and preference for revisionist history” do not undo his conviction.

None of the lawyers could be reached for comment ahead of Monday’s hearing.

Sandusky is about at the halfway point in his potential appeals. After he was convicted in June 2012, Judge Cleland upheld the jury verdict. The state Superior Court did the same in 2013, and the state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in 2014.

His current appeal is under the state’s Post-Conviction Relief Act, which offers an inmate a one-time opportunity, after his initial appeal are exhausted, to argue that his conviction was based on constitutional violations or ineffective assistance of counsel.

Lindsay must first persuade Cleland to grant an evidentiary hearing. Last week, he filed a list with the court of more than 20 witnesses he would call to prove various points in the petition.

They include all of Sandusky’s former lawyers, the prosecutors and investigators in the Attorney General’s office, and Sara Ganim, the former Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter whose expose of Sandusky five years ago won her a Pulitzer Prize. She is now with CNN.

The scandal is still roiling Pennsylvania State University, where defenders of the late Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach brought down by the scandal, continue to argue he was shamefully treated.

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