The judge presiding over the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case set a tentative trial date of May 14 and said he will rule quickly on several pending issues raised in a pretrial hearing on Friday.
Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach accused of sexual contact with 10 boys over a 15-year period, briefly spoke at the proceeding, saying a jury from within Centre County (where he lives) would be no more biased than one from outside the county. The prosecution is seeking a jury from outside, arguing that it would minimize the effects of publicity in the case.
Already the case and the surrounding onslaught of publicity have led to the firing of Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and the school president. Paterno died Jan. 22 at age 85. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in November, just days after his dismissal.
Judge John Cleland did not immediately rule on the jury-composition issue. Nor did he rule on Sandusky's request to modify the conditions of his bail so that he could visit with his grandchildren and meet with his lawyer on the case.
In televised remarks after the hearing, Sandusky told reporters that he misses his 11 grandchildren and would like them to visit his home and to be able to electronically communicate with them.
"I have a wife who came home after visiting with grandchildren or who's sitting there when grandchildren call on my birthday, and they ask to talk to me, and she has to tell them that they can't. I'm sensitive to that," he said.
"Or when she comes home from visiting with grandchildren and tells me that one of them said that 'the only thing I want for my birthday is to be able to see Papa,' I'm sensitive to that," he said.
The prosecution also wants to change the terms of Sandusky's bail, but to further limit the 68-year-old’s activities.
Anthony Sassano, a state investigator, testified that neighbors and personnel at a nearby school were worried that Sandusky's occasional presence on the back deck of his College Park home had disrupted activities at the school.
After posting $250,000 in bail, Sandusky has been under house arrest and is subject to electronic monitoring.
"House arrest is not meant to be a house party," Senior Deputy Atty. Gen. Jonelle Eshbach wrote in the state's papers. "In order to allay the genuine fears of the community, defendant should be confined to his house."
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: Jerry Sandusky pauses while speaking to the media at the Centre County Courthouse after a pretrial hearing on Friday. Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press