Jerry Sandusky makes case for local jury

Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing boys, pauses while speaking to the media at the Centre County Courthouse after a bail conditions hearing Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pa.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Last Updated 12:20 p.m. ET

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Jerry Sandusky said a local jury would be no more or less biased against him in his child sex abuse trial than a jury from anywhere else in Pennsylvania.

The former Penn State assistant coach told Judge John Cleland he agreed with his attorney's request to have a State College-area jury hear his case and acknowledged he'd be waiving his right to appeal a possible guilty verdict on the grounds the local jury was biased.

Prosecutors oppose the use of a local jury, saying an out-of-county jury would be more fair.

Cleland promised a quick ruling on all the issues, including tightening or loosening Sandusky's bail restrictions and the jury-related motion.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Sandusky said he came to today's hearing because he misses seeing his grandchildren, and also wants it to be easier for him to see old friends, who currently would need to be approved by probation officials.

Sandusky said his "home has been open for 27 years to all kinds of people."

"I have a wife who came home after visiting with grandchildren or who's sitting there when grandchildren call on my birthday, and they ask to talk to me, and she has to tell them that they can't. I'm sensitive to that," he said.

"Or when she comes home from visiting with grandchildren and tells me that one of them said that 'The only thing I want for my birthday is to be able to see Papa,' I'm sensitive to that."

But prosecutors say Sandusky's home isn't a safe place for children. Authorities say some of the alleged abuse happened in the home's basement.

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Bail restrictions were also among the issues presented to Judge Cleland at today's pretrial hearing.

Both sides want to change the rules of Sandusky's house arrest. He is seeking permission to allow his 11 grandchildren to visit his home, accompanied by a parent, as well as to be allowed to communicate with them by phone or computer.

Prosecutors noted one daughter-in-law strongly objects to increased contact between her children and Sandusky.

"This home was not safe for children for 15 years, and it's not safe for children now," said state prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach.

Defense attorney Joesph Amendola presented the court with letters from Sandusky's children, and notes and drawings from his grandchildren, expressing their desire for increased contact. He also noted a court-appointed guardian for grandchildren who are part of a custody dispute found no reason Sandusky couldn't see them.

The state attorney general's office has asked for tougher bail rules, arguing that the provisions of Sandusky's house arrest should be altered to require him to stay indoors after neighbors complained they've seen him on his back porch, watching children play in a nearby schoolyard.

An attorney general's office investigator, Anthony Sassano, testified that neighbors and school personnel expressed their concerns about Sandusky's presence on his back deck.

Sassano testified that Sandusky's presence had disrupted school activities in classrooms from which the former coach's home is visible.

One neighbor had used a video camera to document Sandusky's trips to his deck, Sassano said.

Amendola asked what was seen on the recordings, with Sassano responding that on one Sandusky is brushing his dog and on another he'd let the dog out to play. Amendola noted Sandusky is not allowed to give his dog standard walks because of his bail restrictions.

Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts for alleged sexual misconduct involving boys over 15 years, actions that police and prosecutors say have included violent sexual assault inside the Penn State football team facilities. He has denied the allegations.

Prosecutors have said the special position Penn State holds for people in Centre County would make it a challenge for jurors there to render a fair verdict. Sandusky, 68, wants a Centre County jury.