BELLEFONTE, PA - DECEMBER 13: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (C) walks with his attorney Joe Amendola (R) following a hearing at the Centre County Courthouse on December 13, 2011 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Sandusky attended a prelininary hearing on charges he sexually abused 10 boys. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Following today's relatively surprising move by the defense, emotions were high for everyone involved. Victims want a voice, concerned citizens want answers, and the defense rhetoric seems split between "depressed" and vigorously fighting all charges.
Jerry Sandusky was in a Bellefonte courtroom in what many expected to be a lengthy preliminary hearing, but which turned out to be a legal tactic, with Sandusky waiving his right to the hearing.
Legally speaking, this hearing was supposed to be the part of the Pennsylvania criminal process where the prosecution attempts to show that they have sufficient evidence to warrant a trial. Given the fact that Sandusky is charged with numerous crimes, it was expected that the defense would challenge at least some of the prosecution's case. Attorney Joe Amendola had a different idea.
With the preliminary hearing out of the way, the next step in the process is formal arraignment. A formal plea of not guilty is entered, along with some other non-exciting legal formalities, and the case is assigned to a judge. Sandusky has already waived this arraignment, which means the case is headed for a court date to be named later. Unless, of course, Sandusky reaches a plea agreement with the district attorney.
In Pennsylvania, as is the case with presumably all states, any agreement reached between defendant and district attorney is still subject to approval by the presiding judge. Following today's proceedings, many legal guesses were tossed about, with anywhere from 10-20 years being the prevailing thought as to an appropriate plea.
Where is this case headed next? Well, all we know is that it is to be scheduled for open court, but not for at least another month. A plea agreement is a possibility, but Amendola has consistently promised to fight for his client's innocence. A plea deal would almost certainly result in mixed emotions for most involved: it would ensure the case is pushed out of the spotlight in the quickest way possible, but wouldn't allow the victims to be heard in open court against the man that allegedly victimized them for years. Legally more important, though, it would allow Mike McQueary the ability to escape putting testimony of record, for now anyway. McQueary has come under fire recently for stating different things to different people at different times regarding what he actually saw.
Stay tuned, as we'll have more as this saga unfolds.