Defense rests in Sandusky US sex abuse trial

Posted at 06/21/2012 1:50 PM | Updated as of 06/21/2012 2:24 PM

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - The defense in Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse trial rested its case on Wednesday without calling the former Penn State University assistant football coach to the witness stand despite his lawyer previously saying he would testify.

An overflow crowd was present in the courtroom in anticipation of Sandusky's testimony but was left disappointed. The courtroom staff in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania had brought in extra chairs to accommodate the crowd.

Closing arguments in the closely watched trial were expected on Thursday, with jury deliberations due to begin afterward.

Sandusky, 68, is charged with 51 counts of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He faces more than 500 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Defense attorney Joe Amendola previously had said Sandusky would testify.

Defendants are not required to testify. One expert said the decision to keep Sandusky off the witness stand weakened his defense.

"I think juries in a case like this expect to hear from the defendant," said Christopher Mallios, an adviser to AEquitas, a resource group for sex crimes prosecutors. "There are a lot of unanswered questions about these relationships that he can't explain that could hurt him."

Eight accusers, now men aged 18 to 28, testified for the prosecution last week, describing in often graphic detail being molested by Sandusky as boys, including oral and anal sex and shared showers. Two other alleged victims were never identified.

The Sandusky case has focused renewed attention on the issue of child sexual abuse in the United States and prompted the firing in November of Penn State President Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno died of lung cancer in January.

Before resting, the defense on Wednesday called as character witnesses two former participants at Sandusky's charity, Second Mile, an organization prosecutors allege Sandusky used to find his victims.

Chad Rexrode, 35, a landscaper from Pittsburgh, and David Hilton, 21, from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said they each had stayed overnight at Sandusky's home and he had never acted inappropriately with them.

Hilton said he slept at Sandusky's home more than 50 times and took a trip with him to San Francisco. "He's definitely a father figure, he's helped me a lot academic wise," he said.

Among the witnesses called earlier by the defense was Sandusky's wife of 45 years, Dottie, who testified on Tuesday she had never seen her husband behave inappropriately with children.

The defense also presented testimony from a psychologist who said Sandusky suffered from histrionic personality disorder, a condition characterized by excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, with symptoms including inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior.

Judge John Cleland recessed the trial and told jurors to return at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Thursday ready to start deliberations once the defense and prosecution ended their closing arguments. The jury was due to be sequestered at a hotel during deliberations.

The defense also subpoenaed Sara Ganim, a reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News newspaper, to testify about an email she had sent to the mother of one of the accusers about how to contact investigators.

After a bench conference, the defense, prosecution and a lawyer for the newspaper agreed Ganim, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on the Sandusky case, would answer "yes" to the single question about whether she had sent the email if she were to testify. (Editing by Daniel Trotta and Will Dunham)