By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Get it right, goobers, or somebody else will.
That was the instruction delivered quietly yesterday by the federal government, as jury selection began in the state trial of former Penn State football assistant Jerry Sandusky on 52 charges of child sex-abuse.
Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV first reported yesterday that Sandusky’s attorneys had received a “target letter” from the Justice Department related to Victim 4, who has testified that Sandusky transported him twice across state lines for sexual purposes – to the 1998 Outback Bowl in Tampa and the 1999 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, in clear violation of the Mann Act.
It’s no coincidence that this information became public just as the bizarre scene began to unfold in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, where jury selection opened in the state case. With no change of venue, the pool consists of hundreds of locals with established Penn State connections, many with direct ties to principals involved.
Of those empanelled on the first day, one – juror #7 — is a PSU senior who works for the athletic department, wore a shirt with a school logo yesterday, and has a cousin who played football at the school. Juror #3 is a woman who is married to a doctor employed by the same practice as the father of Mike McQueary, a key prosecution witness. She is a 24-year football season-ticketholder. Juror #2 is the son of a PSU employee. Juror #8 is a retired PSU professor, and Juror #5 is an alum.
It’s practically a pregame tailgate party. If the alternates are put in charge of grilling up the burgers and brats behind the jury box, don’t be surprised. There may be face-paint.
All it takes is one, remember. One zealot, hard set on exoneration to make it all un-happen, somehow repairing the shredded fabric of a university community forever stained by terrible things. It’s a mindset held across central Pennsylvania, a region where individual self-worth is apparently so powerfully tied to a college football program that people have reverted to drooling cultists. Their sainted coach was shamed and fired, and now is dead. Twisted people demand a perverted kind of revenge, even if that could mean letting a predator walk free.
The feds are aware of this. They are watching, and waiting, and they want us to know it.
Ben Andreozzi is the attorney for Victim 4. When he was informed of the letter, which indicates that substantial evidence has been obtained and a federal indictment is likely, he told WPVI “My understanding or my thought is it possibly would come to fruition after these state charges are considered and ruled on by the jury.”
There’s a backup plan, then, if justice is undermined by local senselessness. The sick clown college that seems to be convening will not have the last word.
Judge John Cleland struck a light tone as he gave some instructions yesterday, creating some uncomfortable images when Sandusky himself laughed along with those who would be deciding his fate. One big, Centre County family.
For years, Sandusky’s actions have been either ignored or actively concealed, all for the sake of protecting a football program. An attorney general dragged his feet when he had information, because any action would have scuttled his successful gubernatorial bid. A district attorney went missing after deciding not to pursue Sandusky. Ousted school officials await their own trials for perjury.
Now, at the epicenter of the fetid cesspool, Sandusky faces jurors wearing Nittany Lion logos.
The US Department of Justice takes things a bit more seriously than the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Events will play out in Cleland’s courtroom, but the feds are not leaving anything to chance. They are telling everyone involved – Sandusky, his lawyers, state prosecutors and the jury – that he’s not going to walk.
The state full of enablers, facilitators, apologists and conveniently-blind eyes merely has the first chance to finally do something right.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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