A Pennsylvania deputy attorney general accused Jerry Sandusky's lawyer Wednesday of grandstanding and disputed his suggestion that prosecutors offered concessions to entice the former coach to waive his preliminary hearing Tuesday on child sex abuse charges.
Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said lawyer Joseph Amendola first broached the idea that Sandusky might forgo the hearing Monday evening.
Amendola didn't offer a reason. But what followed, Costanzo said, was a series of phone calls and meetings in State College hotel rooms about a waiver, including one with the presiding judge.
Not until Sandusky and Amendola entered the packed courtroom in Bellefonte on Tuesday, he said, were prosecutors sure of the decision.
"If we thought we had some kind of deal, then we would have called people off," Costanzo said. "We were absolutely, totally ready to go."
He spoke after Amendola said in a nationally broadcast interview Wednesday that prosecutors launched the talks to waive the proceeding.
"The commonwealth attorney said he would not request a bail increase on the current charges or any additional charges if Jerry waived his preliminary hearing," Amendola said on NBC's Today. "That was a big concession, because it's very vitally important Jerry stay out of jail."
The eleventh-hour decision was an unexpected turnaround for the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach and his lawyer, who for weeks had said they looked forward to confronting the young men who say Sandusky molested them. The prospect of a preliminary hearing drew hundreds of journalists and onlookers to the Centre County Courthouse and led officials in Bellefonte to close streets and postpone all other court activities.
Later Wednesday, Amendola issued a "clarification" to his Today interview, acknowledging that he reached out to the Attorney General's Office and calling any misperception on the issue "inadvertent." But his comments had touched a nerve with prosecutors.
For weeks, they remained silent while Amendola and Sandusky used a series of interviews to attack the charges and suggest that the accusers fabricated the allegations, possibly to win big civil settlements against the coach, the university, and the Second Mile, the children's charity Sandusky founded.
"It's inappropriate to try the case in the media, and it's inappropriate to attack the credibility of persons he's never met and never questioned," Costanzo said Wednesday afternoon. "When he had the opportunity to do it [at the hearing], he chose not to."
Costanzo said at least 11 witnesses were prepared to testify at the hearing, including Mike McQueary, the former graduate assistant who told grand jurors that he saw Sandusky rape a boy in a locker room shower in 2002 and later told head coach Joe Paterno what he saw.
Costanzo also said that prosecutors never struck a bail deal with Amendola, but told him, as a courtesy, that they intended to ask for an increase in bail if the judge ruled the case should go to trial.
The 67-year-old former coach is under house arrest with electronic monitoring after posting $250,000 bail last week.
Amendola had called the waiver "a tactical measure" and dismissed suggestions that it could be the first step toward a plea bargain. He noted that Sandusky would not have been allowed to testify at the hearing. Amendola would not have been allowed to challenge the credibility of the 10 accusers, but he would have been able to cross-examine them.
Costanzo said that the lead prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan, told Amendola that he intended to object if Amendola tried to steer the cross-examination outside the narrow rules of preliminary hearings.
With Sandusky not due back in court until March, the spotlight in the case turns to two former university administrators accused of covering up one alleged assault.
Athletic director Timothy Curley and former senior vice president Gary Schultz have a preliminary hearing Friday in Harrisburg on charges that they covered up one of Sandusky's alleged assaults. Prosecutors say the two men knew about McQueary's allegation but failed to tell the police and then lied about it to a grand jury.
Costanzo said prosecutors were expected to introduce evidence from at least two witnesses but he would not say if McQueary would be one.
Lawyers for Curley and Schultz have said they will not waive their hearings.