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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