BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Jerry Sandusky is the victim of overzealous investigators and accusers with financial motives who targeted the generous former Penn State assistant football coach, his attorney said in his closing argument Thursday at his client's child sex abuse trial.
Defense lawyer Joe Amendola repeatedly told the jury prosecutors' case "doesn't make sense" and they must acquit his client on the sex abuse charges that led to the firing of beloved head coach Joe Paterno.
Amendola laid the blame for the allegations at the feet of state police investigators who he said coached the alleged victims into giving accusatory statements.
"They went after him, and I submit to you they were going to get him hell or high water, even if they had to coach witnesses," Amendola said in an emotional, sometimes angry closing statement.
Sandusky faces 48 criminal counts involving the abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year span. Prosecutors have called him a predator who used gifts and the draw of Penn State football to target boys with unstable family lives for sexual abuse.
His arrest in November sparked an explosive scandal that led to the firing of Paterno and the departure of the university president, and cast a critical eye on the role of college administrators in reporting abuse allegations. The sweeping case also led to renewed focus on child abuse issues.
The jury heard from eight alleged victims - now ages 18 to 28 - who said Sandusky abused them. Their accounts said the sexual contact ranged from kissing to fondling to showering together to forced oral and anal sex.
Amendola noted that prosecutors didn't produce victims in two other instances. They instead relied on testimony from a university janitor and then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, whose account of a sexual encounter between Sandusky and a boy of about 10 ultimately led to Paterno's dismissal.
He also stressed that prosecutors had no physical evidence of abuse.
Amendola the jurors there would be no winners in the case. Even if Sandusky is acquitted, his life has already been destroyed, as have the reputations of many, including Paterno, Amendola said.
"All he ever wanted to do was to help kids from the time he was a kid," Amendola said. "He helped thousands of kids."
Amendola tried to cast doubt on the accounts given by the accusers by painting them as having financial motives or otherwise tainted by investigatory over-reaching.
Witnesses - some of whom knew each other - changed their stories over the course of their interviews, Amendola said.
"The police kept going back, kept questioning them, saying, `There's more to this. We don't think you're telling us the truth,'" he said.
Amendola also said Sandusky's alleged offenses didn't make sense when viewed along with the rest of the alleged victims' testimony: Their accounts of frequent visits to Sandusky's home and trips to football games and other activities.
"Folks you have to use your common sense," Amendola said. "Jerry Sandusky took these kids everywhere. Is that what a pedophile does ... does he parade these kids around?"
Prosecutors were to present their closing argument later Thursday, and the jury was expected to begin deliberating by the afternoon.
Cleland began Thursday's court session by instructing the 12 jurors and three alternates.
He explained that just the "mere suspicion of guilt" is not enough to arrive at a guilty verdict.
"You may believe he exercised poor judgment, but poor judgment in itself does not warrant criminality," he said. He also said that it is "not necessarily a crime to shower with a boy, lather with soap, engage in back rubbing."
Jurors will have to decide whether the defense was able to create sufficient doubt based on how the investigation was conducted, the reliability and motives of the accusers, and Sandusky's decades-long reputation as a man who worked tirelessly to help underprivileged children.
Many of the 28 defense witnesses testified briefly to vouch for Sandusky's reputation. The defense's case has consisted of character witnesses who defended Sandusky's reputation, a psychologist who said Sandusky had a personality disorder and the ex-coach's wife, who said she did not see her husband do anything inappropriate with the accusers.
Role: Former assistant football coach and founder of The Second Mile charity for children, accused of molesting boys over a 15-year period. Background: Arrested in November after a long investigation by a statewide grand jury. He had been a very successful defensive coach for the Nittany Lions for 30 years, and prosecutors say he used his fame in the community to attract victims. Charges: Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault of a young child, unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of children. Status: Awaits trial, with jury selection scheduled for Tuesday.
Role: Married to Jerry Sandusky. Background: Dottie Sandusky has stood by her husband, posting his bail, accompanying him to court proceedings and issuing a statement in December that proclaimed his innocence and said accusers were making up stories. She is not charged.
Role: Penn State athletic director, on leave while he fights criminal charges for actions related to the Sandusky scandal. Background: Curley fielded a complaint about Sandusky in a team shower with a boy in early 2001, and told a grand jury he instructed Sandusky not to be inside Penn State athletic facilities with any young people. Charges: Failure to properly report suspected child abuse and perjury for lying to the grand jury. He's not on trial with Sandusky, denies the allegations and is seeking to have the charges dismissed.
Role: Penn State vice president for business and finance, now retired. Background: Schultz told the grand jury that head coach Joe Paterno and assistant Mike McQueary reported the 2001 shower incident "in a very general way" but did not provide details. Charges: Failure to properly report suspected child abuse and perjury for lying to the grand jury. He's not on trial with Sandusky, denies the allegations and is seeking to have the charges dismissed.
Role: Assistant Penn State football coach. Was a graduate assistant in 2001, when he says he witnessed Jerry Sandusky and a boy naked together in a team shower. McQueary took his complaint to Paterno, who alerted university administrators. Background: McQueary testified at a court hearing in December that he "believed Jerry was sexually molesting" the boy and "having some type of intercourse with him."
Role: Defense attorney for Jerry Sandusky. Background: Amendola has been second-guessed for allowing Sandusky to go on network television and speak at length with a reporter for The New York Times after his arrest. Has won several legal battles for Sandusky, including getting him released on bail and fighting the prosecution's effort to have the case heard by a jury from outside the State College area. His office is in State College.
Role: Another defense attorney for Jerry Sandusky. Background: Rominger suggested in media interviews that Sandusky might have been teaching "basic hygiene skills" to some of the youths, such as how to put soap on their bodies. His office is in Carlisle.
Joseph McGettigan III
Role: Lead prosecutor. Background: McGettigan, currently senior deputy attorney general, is a veteran prosecutor with stints in the Philadelphia and Delaware County district attorneys' offices and the U.S. attorney's office. McGettigan prosecuted John du Pont, the chemical fortune heir who killed an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler at his palatial estate in 1996. He's known as an aggressive, feisty lawyer.
Role: Judge presiding over Sandusky's trial. Background: Cleland is a semi-retired senior judge from McKean County in western Pennsylvania. Known as courteous and fair-minded, Cleland previously chaired a state panel that investigated a nationally reported scandal in Luzerne County involving the trading of juvenile-detention suspects for cash.
Role: The longtime football coach was told by McQueary in 2001 that he saw Sandusky and Victim No. 2 in a shower on the Penn State campus and, in turn, told Curley and Schultz. Background: The head coach at Penn State from 1966 through 2011, and major college football's winningest, he offered to resign at the end of the 2011 season amid the uproar after Sandusky's arrest Nov. 6. The Penn State Board of Trustees, however, ousted him for what was called his "failure of leadership" surrounding allegations about Sandusky. He died of lung cancer Jan. 22.
Role: Married to Paterno for almost 50 years, she raised five children with him and passionately defended her husband during the scandal and after he died. It's unclear whether she might testify.
Role: Now the governor of Pennsylvania, he was attorney general when the investigation into Sandusky was launched by state prosecutors. Background: Corbett is an ex-officio member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, although he did not actively participate until after Sandusky was charged in December.
Role: Pennsylvania attorney general, whose office is prosecuting Sandusky. Background: A career prosecutor in the Pittsburgh area, Kelly inherited the Sandusky probe from Corbett when she was confirmed as his temporary successor as attorney general. She leaves office in January.
Role: Pennsylvania State Police commissioner. Background: Noonan garnered national attention two days after Sandusky's arrest when he criticized Paterno, a Penn State and sports icon, for failing his "moral responsibility" to do more when McQueary told him of the 2001 shower incident.
Role: Former CEO of The Second Mile, the charity Jerry Sandusky founded. Background: Raykovitz led the charity for almost 30 years and was a longtime friend of Sandusky's. Raykovitz testified before the grand jury that recommended indicting Sandusky on child abuse charges. He resigned from The Second Mile soon after the scandal broke, and board members later complained that Raykovitz hadn't told them enough about earlier allegations against Sandusky.