Judge handling Sandusky’s appeal removes himself from the case
HARRISBURG >> The judge who has presided over Jerry Sandusky’s criminal case for five years issued a sternly worded order on Friday removing himself from the former Penn State assistant coach’s appeal.
Judge John Cleland said he was taking himself off the case because Sandusky’s lawyers have raised objections to Cleland’s role in a December 2011 meeting in a hotel the night before Sandusky waived a preliminary hearing.
“The defendant’s attorneys have impugned the competence and integrity of essentially everyone associated with the grand jury’s investigation into the defendant’s conduct, the defendant’s trial and conviction, and these post-conviction proceedings,” Cleland wrote . “Now they have chosen to impugn the integrity of the court itself.”
Cleland said the accusations against attorneys, judges, jurors, investigators and victims were outside the bounds of the legal profession and should be reviewed by the state board that handles matters of lawyer discipline. Sandusky’s appeals lawyer, Al Lindsay, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.
Sandusky, 72, was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving up to 60 years in prison. He has previously lost a round of appeals to the state Superior and Supreme courts and is currently seeking a new trial under the state’s Post-Conviction Relief Act, which is limited to claims of constitutional violations, newly discovered evidence or ineffective counsel. His appeal involves all three types of claims.
At issue is a meeting held at the Hilton Garden Inn in State College the night of Dec. 12, 2011. It was attended by Cleland, Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola, state prosecutors Joe McGettigan and Jonelle Eshbach, and District Judge Robert Scott, who had been appointed to preside at the preliminary hearing scheduled for the next day.