Coach surprises in child sex abuse case

2011-12-13 21:23

Bellefonte - The man at the centre of a child sex abuse case that rocked the US college football world waived his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, a surprise decision that avoided facing his accusers and moves him toward a trial.

At least some of the 10 accusers had been expected to testify against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. He faces more than 50 charges related to what authorities say were sexual assaults over 15 years on 10 boys at his home, on Penn State property and elsewhere.

His waiver was announced as the hearing began on Tuesday.

Sandusky told reporters as he left the courthouse that he would "stay the course" in defending himself.

Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo said the amount of publicity generated by Sandusky's attorney made the decision unexpected. He said, however, that Sandusky's decision was not unusual given the strength of the state's case.

Unusual approach

"This development we believe provides maximum protection to most importantly the victims in this case," Costanzo said. "It avoids their having to testify for a second time. They will of course testify at a trial in the case."

Sandusky's next court appearance is scheduled for January 11. There have been no discussions about a plea bargain, Costanzo said. Sandusky remains under house arrest.

Sandusky, 67, has said repeatedly that he is innocent and has vowed to fight the case. He has taken the unusual approach of giving high-profile interviews in recent weeks to The New York Times and NBC in an attempt to defend himself.

Michael Boni, a lawyer for one accuser, told reporters he is encouraged by the development.

The accusers "do not have to relive the horrors they experience up on the witness stand" by having to testify at the hearing and at trial, Boni said.

Witnesses have said Sandusky committed a range of sexual offenses against boys as young as 10, assaulting them in hotel swimming pools, the basement of his home in State College, and in the locker room showers at Penn State.

Sandusky has been accused of finding the boys through the charity he founded for at-risk youth, The Second Mile.

The allegations rocked one of the largest and most well regarded college football programmes in the US and led to the firing of Coach Joe Paterno, the most successful coach in major college football.

Sandusky has said his relationship to the boys was like that of an extended family. Sandusky characterised his experiences with the children as "precious times" and said the physical aspect of the relationships "just happened that way" and didn't involve abuse.

Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, a year after the first known abuse allegation reached police.

The grand jury probe began only in 2009, after a teen complained that Sandusky, then a volunteer coach at his high school, had abused him.