Ham: Sandusky Said ‘Way, Way Too Much’
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(WSCR) One day after Jerry Sandusky went on national television for his first public interview since begin charged with more than 40 counts of child sexual abuse, The Score’s legal expert Eldon Ham joined The McNeil and Speigel Show to break down the legal ramifications of Sandusky’s interview.
LISTEN: Eldon Ham on The McNeil and Spiegel Show
Was anything Sandusky or his attorney said last night an admittance of guilt?
Well they certainly admitted way, way too much. The fact that he was in the showers, the fact that some things happened. And then he went on to recount some specific things — touching, touching the legs, horsing around. Look, anyone who knows teachers, and I know several, knows that there’s no chance at, say, a high-school level, that you’re going to get coaches in there showering with the kids, especially one at a time. It just doesn’t happen. You’re going to get fired for doing that. I’m not sure it’s a good excuse. Certainly, as we know in the law profession, when people are willing to admit a little bit, usually there’s a whole lot more beneath the surface.
Could Sandusky have been trying to taint the jury pool?
Here’s what I think: This breaks conventional wisdom. Normally, you say, “Shut up. Don’t say anything.” And you take it from there. I don’t think he’s going to testify at trial, because if he is, all this will come right back at him and he’ll have to defend it himself in person in trial, but we don’t know. … They know that they have a remarkable home-court advantage in State College, Pennsylvania. I think what could have happened is that they took the pool of people who want to believe in Jerry Sandusky and tried to give them a reason to believe. … A lot of people want to believe this guy, and if (Sandusky) gives them a reason, like they hear him say he didn’t do it and then imply that they have some of these kids recanting already, then they can plant that seed, and maybe at least get enough people believing so they can have mistrials if not ‘not guilty’ verdicts.
Did Sandusky do or say anything that you thought made him look guilty?
On at least one occasion, he didn’t say, “I didn’t do it. I’m innocent.” He would say, “I would say that I’m innocent” and “I would say that I didn’t do it.” The overall body language was horrific, kind of down-playing it, no emotion, not upset. Anybody that I’ve known who has been falsely accused of something, especially of something fairly big, when they get their chance to talk about it, they go off. They go off on anybody who brought this up. They go off on people jumping to conclusions. Of course, any actor can pull that off, but his body language was not consistent with a wrongly-accused man.
Could they be trying to use a mental illness defense?
He might be trying to taint enough with a national presentation so that if the prosecution wants this case moved some place else, he could argue that, “Look, everybody has the same opinion everywhere. We want to keep it here in State College.” … I will say this about ‘innocent until proven guilty’ because we hear that a lot when you get cases like this, the high profile cases: It’s over-used and misunderstood. Innocent until proven guilty does not trump that First Amendment. All of us — newscasters, reporters, expects, just human beings — are entitled to our opinions. That’s all they are is opinions, but until he’s proven guilty in the court of law, that’s the only place that standard really and truly applies.
Was he trying to admit to everything except the actual abuse?
I don’t think that’s effective — it might be if there’s one witness. If you can attack one witness and say, ‘Look at this. I don’t know why he’s lying. Maybe he’s got it in for me.’ But at least 10 people here are actual first-hand witness — the eight victims plus a janitor who saw one act and McQueary who saw the other. That’s at least 10. So, it doesn’t sound like that would be a very convincing argument.
Did the judge who let Sandusky off with an unsecured bail do something wrong?
It’s on the edge. It’s not enough that you could say it’s a clear issue, but it’s curious. They may have felt that genuinely is not a flight risk. … But the $100,000 is not a high level. I don’t really think he’s a flight risk. I don’t know where he’s going to go or how he’s going to get there.
In part of the interview that wasn’t aired, Sandusky said: “I didn’t go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I’ve helped. There are many that I didn’t have — I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways.” Could this be used against him?
Yes, especially if he testifies. That will be thrown in his face. He will be cross-examined. It sounds like a virtual admission, and that’s why lawyers don’t like these guys talking. You think you’re making one point, but in reality, you’re actually making another one. When he says, ‘I didn’t seek everybody out.’ Does that mean he only sought one out? Or eight? Or seven? Or 20? That’s the issue there.