Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sandusky defense tab totals $200,000 so far

Jerry Sandusky's defense against child sex-abuse charges has cost an estimated $200,000 so far, and his lawyer said uncertain financial resources have caused the defense team to forego psychological testing of the former Penn State University assistant football coach as his trial approaches in June.

Five months after a Pennsylvania grand jury outlined the first charges against Sandusky, attorney Joe Amendola told USA TODAY that financial considerations also have limited defense investigations into the backgrounds of Sandusky's eight known accusers.

The remaining two alleged victims have not yet been identified by prosecutors.

"We have not been able to develop full profiles of these people," the attorney said in an interview just days prior to Monday's sweeping court order which now prohibits prosecutors, defense lawyers and potential witnesses from making public comments about the case.

Amendola said his client has "cashed out" his retirement account and is drawing on a insurance policy from the Second Mile, the organization he founded to assist at-risk children, to help pay for his defense. The insurance company, Federal Insurance Co., however has gone to federal court to contend that it is not obligated to pay defense costs, citing the former coach's alleged "reprehensible acts."

Pending a resolution of that lawsuit, the company has paid defense expenses totaling about $125,000, Amendola said. Attorneys representing the insurance company did not respond to inquiries seeking comment.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, declined to comment on the cost of the state investigation.

The overall defense budget is funding the work of Amendola, the assistance of attorney Karl Rominger and two part-time investigators to prepare for the June 5 trial.

"This case screams for a team of lawyers and investigators — a team of specialists," Amendola said.

Instead, he said, Sandusky is spending his days sequestered under house arrest calling potential witnesses "who will be helpful" to the defense. Some days, Amendola said, Sandusky calls him "15 times a day" relaying information or posing questions.

Legal analysts said the defense costs are substantial, but not necessarily surprising in such a case.

"The money goes pretty quickly when you are preparing (pre-trial) motions, developing legal strategy and spending the time to review the evidence collected in this case," said Aitan Goelman, a former federal prosecutor. "I don't think $200,000 is out of the question."

But without funding for such things as background investigations of Sandusky's accusers, the defense may be lacking "really important" information for use during the coach's upcoming trial.

"For a criminal defendant, you want to be able to call (witnesses') credibility into question," Goelman said.

Christopher Mallios, a former Philadelphia prosecutor, said Amendola "squandered" an opportunity to learn more about the victims and the government's case when he waived the preliminary hearing back in December, where the state is required to offer evidence to support a prosecution.

"If they haven't been able to do full background investigations, that falls squarely on his shoulders," Mallios said.

By Kevin Johnson, The Usa Today

Source: The Usa Today

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