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John Baer: By waiving hearing, Sandusky delays 'the game of his life'

BELLEFONTE - The event that was supposed to be the biggest thing to hit this burg since the last public hanging in 1911 was over in a New York minute.


The event that was supposed to be the biggest thing to hit this burg since the last public hanging in 1911 was over in a New York minute.

That's how long it took alleged pedophile Jerry Sandusky to waive his right to a preliminary hearing on charges that he abused 10 boys over 15 years.

The courtroom was packed. The prosecution was ready. The defense sought a sidebar. And that was all she wrote.

An out-of-central-casting, ruddy-faced, white-haired senior magistrate, Robert Scott, 74, imported from Westmoreland County since everyone here has Penn State links, had Sandusky say that he understood the move - and then he shut down the show.

So the borough of 6,000 in the Nittany Valley, 10 miles north of the university, gets its streets reopened, gets its parking spaces back, returns to its normal trash-pickup schedule.

And the media circus climbs back onto the merry-go-round.

Why the dive? Which side gains? Is a plea agreement in the works?

Outside the stately, columned Centre County Courthouse, state Senior Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo says there are "no discussions" of a plea.

Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola says, "There will be no plea negotiation."

(On Monday, Amendola told the Associated Press that there would be no waiving of the hearing.)

Then, because so much of this revolves around football and because Amendola is either a genius or an idiot, he adds, "This goes beyond the Penn State-Miami game in '86. This is the game of his life."

(For those who don't live in Nittany Nation, PSU won a national championship by beating Miami, 14-10, in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., on Jan. 2, 1987.)

Sandusky, the former defensive coach, manages a gridiron reference, too. Leaving the courthouse, he tells reporters he plans to put up "the best possible defense and stay the course for four full quarters."

I can only shake my head.

This isn't a football story. It's not a sports story, except in exposing the insularity of major-college sports.

It's about alleged acts sickening to any person of reason, an apparent coverup and a legal process that can lead to justice for victims and/or Sandusky.

Waiving yesterday's hearing seems a good thing for the accusers, a semi-smart thing for the accused.

Those who claim abuse are spared a public retelling of painful personal stories, details of which would be open to courtroom probing by Amendola.

Sandusky is spared yet another recitation of such details, which then play out yet again in print, Internet and broadcast news all across the nation.

Add to this the virtual certainty that he gets bound over for trial (plus the possibility that his $250,000 bail is increased), and waiving the hearing seems sensible.

Just not entirely.

Amendola says limits on what is relevant in a hearing precluded his questioning the "credibility" of witnesses.

This would appear to apply especially to Mike McQueary, the then-grad assistant who told a grand jury that he saw Sandusky anally rape a boy in a locker-room shower, and who the state said was ready to testify yesterday.

Problematically, emails and statements by McQueary and others have since shown inconsistencies in what he said he saw and what he told friends and superiors.

After waiving the hearing, Amendola said he plans to "destroy" McQueary's credibility.

Prominent Pennsylvania defense attorney William Costopoulos says Amendola could have started yesterday: "He's right in that once a witness says an event happened, that set of charges is getting bound over, but there's ample opportunity to question credibility."

Costopoulos adds that a preliminary hearing provides "a preview of the commonwealth's case," which he calls "invaluable to any defense attorney, I don't care how you spin it."

So it goes. The case and the spinning continue with a trial (if there is one) likely late next year. It would be here, and give Bellefonte another shot at showtime.