Saturday, November 22, 2014
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A Sandumbsky Defense?

Patriot-News reports on apparent difference in Jerry Sandusky's demeanor and wonders if it's part of a defense strategy.

A Sandumbsky Defense?

Interesting article atop page one of today's Harrisburg Patriot-News suggests that alleged child-abuser Jerry Sandusky might be playing dumb as part of a criminal defense strategy.

The piece quotes past and present friends and acquaintances, some of whom say the Sandusky they're seeing and reading about these days doesn't square with the Jerry they've known.

Among the theories examined: he's medicated to deal with the stress of charges against him and his pending trial; he might be suffering from delayed effects of head trauma sustained in his playing days; he might be working toward a defense that he's just too dim to know right from wrong.

His lawyers disregard such thinking. They say Jerry's just being Jerry, the way he's always been.

Here's what The Patriot says:

"The former coach has always had an aw-shucks manner about him, and those who knew him long before these allegations say he has a boyish demeanor and a silly side.

But let’s get something straight: Jerry Sandusky is not a dumb guy.

He graduated first in his class in the College of Health and Physical Education at Penn State, started a multimillion-dollar charity from the ground up and developed a defensive scheme that brought Penn State its only two national football championships.

That’s not the side of Jerry Sandusky that we’ve seen in the last four months. Instead, his demeanor has been that of the proverbial dumb jock, a guy who is just a big kid — too goofy to realize that what he was doing was wrong.

It raises the question: Is Sandusky taking the play-it-dumb defense?"

The article notes that at a recent court hearing Sandusky giggled when he took the stand, and when a prosecutor alleged that Sandusky's Second Mile charity for kids at risk was used to get him victims, the former football coach leaned back in the witness chair and smiled.

The judge even asked if he was medicated and, if so, taking only the prescribed dosage. Sandusky answered yes and yes.

The article also quotes people who say Sandusky for years did public appearances and speeches on behalf of Second Mile and was always lucid, direct and impressive.

(I can tell you he came across that way at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in November 2000.)

And it quotes Ron Bracken, a Centre Daily Times retired sports editor who covered Penn State football for 40 years:

"I don’t think anybody that knew him ever would have thought: ‘This guy isn’t very sharp. He’s a dumb jock who just happens to be good at creating defenses.’ This doesn’t square at all with the Jerry that I knew. You don’t write books, graduate first in your class, you don’t do a lot of the things that he did if you have limited mental capabilities.”

Maybe it's stress. Maybe it's medication. Maybe it's 68 years catching up with him. But I suppose it's also possible that the former master defensive coordinator is still helping to coordinate a defense.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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