HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday denied a request by former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky for a new trial on charges that he sexually assaulted pre-teen and teenaged boys for 15 years.
Sandusky, 73, was convicted in 2012 of exploiting his position in the top-flight football program to sexually assault 10 boys. He is currently serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence.
Centre County Court of Common Pleas visiting Judge John Foradora struck down all Sandusky’s claims of sub-par legal work by his trial attorney, Joseph Amendola, and two other lawyers.
“The bulk of Sandusky’s claims are meritless,” Foradora concluded in a 60-page opinion. “Those that remain, whether they fail for want of prejudice or because Amendola’s actions or failure to act were informed by a reasonable strategy, do not combine to call into question ... the legitimacy of the verdict.”
Sandusky’s exposure led to the firing of longtime head coach Joe Paterno and prompted the state to toughen its laws on child sex assault.
Sandusky asserted that his original trial attorneys had botched his defense, citing 31 mistakes including allowing Sandusky to be interviewed by sports journalist Bob Costas and failing to seek a mistrial after prosecutors in their closing remarks referred to Sandusky’s decision not to testify at his trial.
Defendants in U.S. criminal trials are not required to testify and often do not.
“As much as he would like to pretend otherwise, Sandusky did not go into the interview as a legal novice obsequiously following his attorney’s directives with no idea about what Costas might ask or how he should respond,” Foradora wrote.
Sandusky’s attorney Al Lindsay said he would appeal the ruling.
“The court’s decision is not the end of Jerry’s case; it is only the closing of a chapter which we need to go through in the course of our endeavor to obtain a new trial, a reversal of his conviction, and ultimately his release and vindication,” Lindsay said in a statement.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro praised the ruling, saying it will “allow the victims of Mr. Sandusky to live their lives knowing that this serial sexual abuser will remain behind bars.”
The decision was a vindication of sorts for Amendola, who has been harshly criticized by Sandusky’s defenders for his conduct of the trial.
“I always said I did the best job I could,” Amendola said in a phone interview.
Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker