Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Jerry Sandusky, who faces dozens of charges of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years while working with one of the most storied sports programs in the US, arrived Tuesday for the start of a trial that he repeatedly had tried to delay.
Jury selection began in the case against the 68-year-old Sandusky, the former assistant Penn State football coach.
The proceedings are taking place about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the campus, and picking 12 people to decide his fate could prove a monumental task in a Pennsylvania region where practically everyone went to the university, works there, knows someone there or is a fan of the football team.
“It’s going to be a very, very difficult chore to pick a jury in that community,” said Brian McMonagle, a Philadelphia defense attorney unconnected to the case.
Prosecutors had been so concerned that they asked Judge John Cleland to bring in prospective jurors from another county. Cleland rejected the request but said he would reconsider if a jury isn’t selected in a reasonable amount of time.
After nine of the 12 main jurors were seated, their ranks included a longtime football season ticket holder, a rising senior in the university, a man with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university and a soil sciences professor who retired after 37 years there.
In the first questioning of 40 prospective jurors, about half said they or immediate family members worked at Penn State or were university retirees. One woman rented apartments to college students. Four knew Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach. Two knew his wife.
But the presiding judge indicated that those connections weren’t necessarily enough to keep jurors from being seated. Six jurors were selected Tuesday, including a longtime Penn State football seasons ticketholder.
Sandusky, who also ran a charity for at-risk youth where prosecutors say he met his victims, has denied the 52 criminal counts against him. He did not comment as he arrived for the trial.
On Monday, the judge ruled that Sandusky’s alleged victims will have to testify using their real names.
Lawyers for several of the accusers had asked that their clients be allowed to testify under fake names, a rarity in criminal cases.
“Arguably any victim of any crime would prefer not to appear in court, not to be subjected to cross-examination, not to have his or her credibility evaluated by a jury — not to put his name and reputation at stake,” the judge said. “But we ask citizens to do that every day in courts across the nation.”
News organizations, including The Associated Press, typically do not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.
The judge also ruled that tweets or other electronic communications by reporters will not be permitted during the trial