Questions About Sandusky's Legal Strategy

There's plenty of criticism over the strategy of allowing Jerry Sandusky to be interviewed by Bob Costas last night. Legal observers almost universally have declared it a flop. Apparently, the interview was scheduled just with Sandusky's attorney, but his attorney decided 15 minutes before it began to make his client available.

Today, Sandusky's lawyer was on the Today show. He put forth this reasoning: [More..]

“We had talked about it, and I explained to Jerry that this was an opportunity for him to tell people how he felt and what has happened in his life and the fact that he is not guilty of these offenses,’’ Amendola said. “He took that opportunity. Jerry has wanted to talk about this for a long, long time.’’

While Sandusky is now locked into having showered with kids and "horsed around" with them, I think that was the intention. His lawyer calls him a "big overgrown kid.” Sandusky's words were:

“I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their leg without intent of sexual contact?"

Why would Sandusky's lawyer want him to acknowledge that? The only reason I can think of is if his lawyer intends to argue that his client is a "minor-attracted person" who has not engaged in any forcible acts, and while guilty of the lesser counts, is not guilty of the most serious ones. Maybe he's just trying to avoid a life sentence.

But did Sandusky blow the strategy with his pause and then denial to Costas' question as to whether he was a pedophile? Perhaps the plan was for Sandusky to acknowledge he was attracted to children but insist he doesn't act on that attraction, and he lost the courage to do so, balking at the word "pedophile." In the end, he ended up denying he was sexually attracted to children.

Perhaps the answer would have been different had Costas used the word "minor-attracted person" instead of pedophile. Check out B4UAct, a group that advocates for better collaboration between mental health care professionals, researchers and minor-attracted persons.

What's a "minor-attracted person"?

Adults who experience feelings of preferential sexual attraction to children or adolescents under the age of consent, as well as adolescents who have such feelings for younger children. It is important to realize that these sexual feelings are usually accompanied by feelings of emotional attraction, similar to the romantic feelings most adults have for other adults.

What's the difference between a minor-attracted person and a pedophile?

The American Psychiatric Association defines a pedophile to be a person at least 16 years old who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children and has either engaged in sexual activity with a child or feels distressed by the feelings of attraction. The term “minor-attracted person” includes not only pedophiles, but also adults and adolescents preferentially attracted to children but who have not interacted with them sexually and do not feel distressed by their feelings. It also includes adults who are preferentially attracted to adolescents (rather than pre-pubescent children), and who may or may not have engaged in sexual activity with them.

....Non-criminological researchers note that many minor-attracted people live within the law (see our fact sheet).

Why don't people know about the law-abiding minor-attracted people?

Because of extraordinary stigma, such people rarely let anyone know about their sexual feelings. They fear rejection and harassment from family, friends, employers, and their community. They rarely come forward to mental health professionals voluntarily because they are not sure if they can trust them to maintain confidence, focus on their mental health needs, or treat them with respect, compassion, and understanding. Only those who violate the law come to the attention of law enforcement authorities and therefore mental health professionals and the public.

The group's goal:

Our goal is unique and unprecedented: to make effective and compassionate mental health care available to individuals who self-identify as minor-attracted and who are seeking assistance in dealing with issues in their lives that are challenging to them. We want to give them hope for productive and fulfilling lives, rather than waiting for a crisis to occur.

....Our work is limited to promoting mutual respect and empathy between mental health professionals and minor-attracted people for the purpose of making compassionate and supportive mental health services available

No one knows what causes attraction to minors. Due to the stigma, most live in the shadows. The studies that have been done have focused on convicted criminals, which may not be representative of all minor-attracted persons.

Some believe MAP is a sexual orientation, like homosexuality, that one is born with. It's unlikely that aversive reconditioning techniques can successfully change the orientation. But not all minor-attracted persons physically harm children and traditional, compassionate therapy may help them keep it that way. B4UAct says "no person should be denied their dignity and humanity because of feelings of attraction that they did not choose."

Maybe the point of the interview was for Sandusky to come out of the closet and reveal that while he is a minor-attracted person, he is not a deviant criminal or child rapist. B4UAct says "Therapists who have an understanding of attraction to minors realize that many minor-attracted people are able to refrain from sexual activity with minors."

That's the only potential explanation for Sandusky's legal strategy that remotely makes sense to me. But if that was it, his lawyer should have unveiled it in a separate interview before putting his client through the fire. Sandusky didn't humanize himself or exonerate himself in the Costas interview. He just muddied the waters and appeared to either be in denial or minimizing what happened, rather than explaining himself.

Here's a Mayo Clinic treatise on pedophiles. It's quite a complicated subject.

Sandusky's charges (not listed in the 23 page grand jury report but in the criminal complaint filed against him, outlined here):

  • Six first-degree felonies for deviate sexual intercourse (maximum per count 40 years)
  • Four counts for first-degree felonies for Unlawful Contact with a Minor. (maximum per count 20 years)
  • One second-degree felony charge for aggravated indecent assault. (maximum is 10 years.)
  • Nine third-degree felony charges, (maximum per count 5 years)
  • Five second degree misdemeanor charges (maximum per count two years)
  • Fifteen first degree misdemeanor charges (maximum per count five years)

The charges include:

*Deviate sexual intercourse with underage complainant
* Indecent contact
* Intentional contact with minor in intention of sexual offense
* Child endangerment by parent
* Corrupting morals of minor
* Aggravated indecent assault

The most serious charges of deviate sexual intercourse with underage complainant pertain to victims #1, 2, 4 and 8. Victims #2 and #8 did not testify before the grand jury and have not been identified. That leaves two victims who, as of now, will directly testify they were subjected to a forcible sexual assault by Sandusky. Maybe these are the only charges Sandusky's lawyer is planning on contesting, in hopes of getting a less than maximum sentence on the others.

Unless Sandusky is planning a "mea culpa" and confession to all but the forcible penetration counts, his lawyer's media strategy makes little sense to me. Public opinion has already been cast in cement. Somehow, a court will find 12 jurors who claim not to have made their mind up (it always does, whether it's true is another matter.) Those are the only ones Sandusky has to convince. He's not going to do it by going on the Today Show or other news shows.

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  • Display: Sort:
    listening to it (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 08:46:39 PM EST
    I wondered if they were planning some kind of insanity defense.  IMO no one who heard that interview came away believing anything but that this man is a guilty as sin but perhaps also delusional.

    you may well be correct jeralyn. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by cpinva on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 10:02:27 PM EST
    however, one big hurdle mr. sandusky would have to overcome, to convince a jury, would be explaining away all those young people who are now coming forward, alleging that much more than just "emotional feelings' were visited upon them, by mr. sandusky.

    why do i see this episode as a future, harvard law, example of how not to represent your client?

    What ?? (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 09:55:16 AM EST
    The term "minor-attracted person" includes not only pedophiles, but also adults and adolescents preferentially attracted to children but who have not interacted with them sexually and do not feel distressed by their feelings.

    This is non-sense, MAPs includes pedophiles, the only difference I can ascertain is how distressed they are by their feelings.

    I have no doubt all of them are born with these feelings, no one aspires to be attracted to kids, but that's hardly a defense, neither is what essentially boils down to their conscious.  Pretty sure the victims don't care how distressed their perpetrators are.  And if they aren't committing acts, what they think/feel is irrelevant.

    To me if Sandusky if going to claim he was attracted to them, but didn't act on it, then maybe he should have avoided the naked showers/horseplay/leg touching, those are acts. I can't imagine a jury differentiating was is essentially foreplay(for Sandusky) from an intention/probability to take it further.  That is a fine line I don't think he or anyone can walk.

    I doubt this is the strategy, pretty sure the attorney got pressure from the network and thought Sandusky would at least be able to deny fairly easily.  Sandusky wasn't suppose to be part of the original interview, it was last minute.  Costas wasn't grilling him, asking a grown man who been charged with sexual crimes against boys if he is sexually attracted to boys is IMO a softball.

    To me "minor attracted person" isn't (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by oculus on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 11:36:56 AM EST
    a tag I'd like to be known by.  

    Nope (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by ruffian on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 01:37:59 PM EST
    It is pretty much just 'pedophile' translated from the Greek.

    How would you say "fixed minor attracted (none / 0) (#23)
    by oculus on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 07:43:23 PM EST
    person"?  As opposed to "fixed pedophile"?

    "Chopped and re-channeled" (none / 0) (#26)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 10:54:33 PM EST
    I agree (none / 0) (#2)
    by NYShooter on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 08:59:42 PM EST
    insanity seems to be the only, albeit longshot,  avenue out of a lifetime in prison.

    seems to me that even if it (none / 0) (#10)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 06:20:31 AM EST
    helps him it would do exactly the opposite for the university and the charity for allowing his continued access to the children.  and of course the showers.  (even typing the phrase makes me feel like I need to take one)

    I feel like (none / 0) (#4)
    by lilburro on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 11:56:32 PM EST
    I'm just trying to keep up with this story, and to that end, this blog has been very helpful.  Having just heard his interview with Costas and read a bit more this evening, I'm more or less speechless.  God knows what either Sandusky or his lawyer are thinking.

    I kind of like the term (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 12:47:52 AM EST
    minor attracted person. Reminds me of juvies charged with alcohol offenses, they are called minors in possession. And how the politically correct word for a personal here without proper papers is not an illegal alien, but an undocumented person or undocumented resident.

    short people aren't midgets, they are height challenged people. Mentally low iQ people aren't retarded, but mentally challenged.

    From here on out, I'm using "minor attracted person" and never pedofile to describe someone who finds themselves attracted to young people. Hope you will all join me in raising the level of discourse.

    It's About the Abuse of Power (5.00 / 6) (#16)
    by mudlark on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 10:05:05 AM EST
    As a trained therapist, my belief is that--like rape-- "minor attraction" has everything to do with the abuse of power, and little to do with sexuality. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of attempting to de-stigmatize it. Any sexual contact between an adult and a child is the abuse of a power differential that favors the adult. I don't think normalizing it keeps kids safe.

    Seriously (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by jbindc on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 01:55:23 PM EST
    If I was sitting on the jury and Sandusky's lawyer tried to use MAP as a defense, and argue that this isn't something to be stigmatized, I would literally laugh out loud.

    Right up there with the Twinkie defense.


    Jeralyn, you may want to re-think this (5.00 / 3) (#21)
    by Zorba on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 01:55:38 PM EST
    If, as the article states, there is a stigma attached to "minor attracted persons" who don't act on their attractions, then also calling people who have been convicted of actual pedophilia "minor attracted persons" (if this is what you intend) is just going to attract more stigma to minor attracted people who do not, have never, and will not, act on their feelings.  "Minor attracted person" will become the default term for "pedophile."  I think that it would be acceptable to call a "minor attracted person" who has never acted on this attraction, such a term, as opposed to "pedophile," but I would certainly still call a convicted pedophile a "pedophile."

    Three words where one suffices. (none / 0) (#25)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 08:18:46 PM EST
    By definition, those who restrict themselves to private fantasies, never acting on them, will remain unknown to the legal system and in a very real sense need no name whatever.

    There is no need for this garbage scow of a neologism.


    For the Record (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:50:47 PM EST
    Midgets aren't height challenged, they are little people.  I don't know that's it's any better, but it's the correct phrase to use.

    And as soon as everyone uses MAPs, it will be stigmatized as much as pedophile. I also think it does injustice to people who are attracted to kids (not minors, minors include people who can legally give consent) that don't act on those feelings.  For those people I have much respect for.  Can't imagine having defect like that and the power it probably takes to keep in under wraps.

    If it is something one is born with, fighting those feelings has to be somewhat similar to fighting other sexual attractions, like same sex.  Now you want to dump all the actual pedophiles in that group, making them all equal when they anything but.


    Interesting suggestion. (none / 0) (#7)
    by observed on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 02:01:28 AM EST
    In general, I find that many people are not even aware of the definition of pedophilia, and would call an adult who has sex with a 15 year old a pedophile.

    In the US, (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by lentinel on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 07:02:06 AM EST
    the age of consent is frequently 16.

    In Spain, apparently, the age of consent is 13 (!). Can that be right?
    For Greece, 15.

    I think the important distinction here is not what people feel, or to whom they feel attracted, but what they do about it and whether or not they act upon it.

    In this case - as far as I am concerned, if I were a student showering after an athletic event in school, the last thing I would want is my coach coming in there with me touching my leg.


    Two Things (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 09:21:06 AM EST
    Last year a teacher has sex with a 15 year old on a trip to Germany where the consent was... I don't remember the number, but 15 is OK.

    When they got back people were flipping out that he wasn't in jail, but he committed no crime.  He was fired.

    The other angle is the power Sandusky had over these kids.  Even if they were of age he still would be in the wrong.


    Yes (none / 0) (#14)
    by lentinel on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 09:57:26 AM EST
    The other angle is the power Sandusky had over these kids.  Even if they were of age he still would be in the wrong.

    I totally agree.

    That's what I meant by my identifying with the kids in the shower.
    They had to put up with his "horsing around" and touching their legs. He was their coach as I understand it.



    All (none / 0) (#8)
    by lentinel on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 05:13:58 AM EST
    I can do is empathize with the kids in the shower - with that old guy in there too, presumably naked, horsing around and touching legs.

    A piece about Sandusky's attorney (none / 0) (#15)
    by rdandrea on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 10:02:22 AM EST
    From McClatchy...Sandusky confession? (none / 0) (#18)
    by DFLer on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 01:33:00 PM EST
    Sandusky's NBC interview possible confession to sex crime under Pa. law

    Penn.'s child protection statues and Penn.'s definition of indecent exposure linked on web page as well.

    That line about touching the leg was the creepiest (none / 0) (#24)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 08:09:24 PM EST
    line in the entire interview.

    It was way too specific.

    I have often wondered in the past (none / 0) (#27)
    by observed on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:12:54 AM EST
    whether being minor-attracted is a common attribute among high school (and perhaps junior high school) teachers, and if such people can be effective and productive teachers if they have sublimated their desires.
    I like kids of all ages, but the thought of being around teenagers, every day, for a job? Eek.
    Thus, my speculation.

    How in the world would you or I know? (none / 0) (#29)
    by observed on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 09:58:01 AM EST
    In my opinion it is a pretty obvious attribute of some really excellent teachers from my youth.

    Yup, a Wild Ass Guess on both our parts. (none / 0) (#30)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:52:21 PM EST
    As the parent of 12 & 10 y/o boys this subject is of some considerable interest to me.

    I assume we are talking of PSAMPs?

    (Primarly-Sexually-Attracted-to-Minors Person. No more ridiculous than the other acronym proposed in this thread.)

    Since most PSAMPs are men, and so few teachers of minor aged children are men, my WAG is that it is not common for teachers of minor aged children to be PSAMPs.

    However, another of my WAGs is that PSAMPs are more common among male teachers of minor aged children than they are among the male population in general.

    Not trying to split hairs, if that's what it sounds like, I just don't (want to, perhaps?) think that it is common for my kids' teachers to be PSAMPs.

    Not that there aren't a few I do wonder about...


    I mentioned high school teachers, (none / 0) (#31)
    by observed on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:55:18 PM EST
    and thats' where my hypothesis chiefly lies.

    Fair enough. (none / 0) (#33)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:15:22 PM EST
    My HS experince is probably somewhat skewed as I went to Catholic HS.

    more closely.

    I do and don't agree with your hypothosis, I think it's a matter of degree.

    My WAG is that essentially every hetero male HS teacher that exists takes some "notice," anyway, of the female HS students.

    (And also takes notice the moms of the HS students, and the female HS teachers, and the female HS coaches, and the female administrators, etc.)

    So yes, I think it is common for male HS teachers to be - at some level, anyway - minor-attracted, though I don't think it's common for them to be exclusvely nor primarily minor-attracted.


    Do you also have an opinion as (none / 0) (#32)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:55:41 PM EST
    to minor attracted male persons who are teachers are predominantly coaches?

    A new acronym, MAMPs! I like it. (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:24:08 PM EST
    I'm not sure MAMP teacher/coaches are any more or less common than MAMP teachers. Was that your question?

    Yes. Although I'm not buying the acronym. (none / 0) (#35)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:25:33 PM EST
    I still think "fixed pedophile" is useful label if it applies.  

    Yup. (none / 0) (#36)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:27:37 PM EST
    One thing y'all have overlooked is that (none / 0) (#38)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 11:20:59 PM EST
    most teachers fresh from university are pretty damned young themselves.  It's not like they go into teaching third graders at the age of fifty.