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BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s request for greater freedom of movement — and for visits from his young grandchildren — while he awaits trial on child sex-abuse charges was taken under advisement by a judge Friday, but prosecutors countered that Sandusky’s home isn’t a safe place for children.
Judge John Cleland set a tentative trial date of May 14 for Sandusky and promised to rule quickly on a number of other issues, including dueling requests for changes to his bail restrictions.
Prosecutors want him confined to the inside of his house while on home confinement awaiting trial; the defense asked that he be allowed out occasionally to help with the case.
Defense attorney Joe Amdendola also asked that Sandusky, 68, be permitted to see his grandchildren, a request strenuously opposed by prosecutors.
“This home was not safe for children for 15 years, and it’s not safe for children now,” said state prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach.
Prosecutors noted that one daughter-in-law strongly objects to increased contact between her children and Sandusky.
Amendola presented the court with letters from Sandusky’s children, and notes and drawings from his grandchildren, expressing their desire for increased contact. He also noted a court-appointed guardian for grandchildren who are part of a custody dispute found no reason Sandusky couldn’t see them.
Outside the courthouse, Sandusky told reporters he wanted to be able to see his grandchildren — who he said wanted to see him, too — and old friends.
“Our home has been open for 27 years to all kinds of people,” Sandusky said.
With his wife, Dottie, at his side, Sandusky said he’d associated with thousands of young people over the years, before prosecutors filed sex abuse charge against him in November.
“Now I can’t take my dog on my deck and throw out biscuits to him,” he said.
Prosecutors have also requested an out-of-county jury to hear Sandusky’s case, given the widespread media attention and close ties many people in Centre County have to Penn State.
Cleland wanted to hear from Sandusky directly about his attorney’s opposition to that request. Sandusky was sworn in and briefly took the stand to answer the judge’s questions.
Sandusky acknowledged that his position on the jury question means he could not appeal a conviction on grounds the local jury was biased.
“I don’t believe that would matter, relative to any place (else) in this state,” he testified.
The state attorney general’s office has asked for tougher bail rules, arguing that Sandusky should remain inside because neighbors and school staff have complained about his presence near the school.
Sassano testified that children had noticed him from their classroom, and that his presence was disrupting school activities.
One neighbor had used a video camera to document Sandusky’s time on his deck, Sassano said.
Under questioning from Amendola, Sassano testified that Sandusky was seen on the video brushing his dog or letting the dog outside to play. Amendola cannot walk the dog because of his bail restrictions, Amendola said.
Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts for alleged sexual misconduct involving boys over 15 years, actions that police and prosecutors say have included violent sexual assault inside the Penn State football team facilities. He has denied the allegations.
The scandal led the Penn State trustees to push out university president Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno, who died last month.
Two Penn State administrators are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failed to properly report suspected child abuse. Gary Schultz, a former vice president, and Tim Curley, the athletic director, have both denied the allegations.
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