Friday, June 22, 2012

Sources: Sandusky son was set to claim abuse

Sources tell NBC News that prosecutors warned the defense if they put Jerry Sandusky on the stand, his adopted son was prepared to provide damaging testimony as a surprise rebuttal witness. NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.

By Michael Isikoff, Hannah Rappleye and Tom Winter, NBC News

Updated at 5:58 p.m. ET: BELLEFONTE, Pa. ? Jerry Sandusky decided not to testify in his child sex abuse trial after his lawyers were warned that prosecutors would call a surprise new witness ? one of the defendant?s own adopted sons, sources told NBC News. The man's lawyers said he?was prepared to testify that his father had abused him.

Matt Sandusky, one of six adopted children of Jerry and Dottie Sandusky, was observed by NBC News entering the courthouse, accompanied by Pennsylvania state troopers, on Wednesday morning as the defense was preparing to wrap up its case ? and apparently still wrestling with whether Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator, would take the stand.

Matt Sandusky, 33, has been a stalwart supporter of his father, visiting him at his home after he was charged with sex abuse and showing up at the courtroom last week to sit with his mother and other family members. But after the trial began, according to the sources, Matt Sandusky contacted prosecutors and agreed to provide testimony about events that he witnessed.

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NBC News was unable to locate him this week for comment. But his attorneys, Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici, confirmed that Matt Sandusky requested their assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors "to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky's abuse."

Shubin and Andronucci said in a statement that they would have no further comment.

"This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt and he has asked us to convey his request that the media respect his privacy," they said.

Prosecutors contacted Sandusky?s defense lawyers in the last few days to inform them that Matt Sandusky might be called as a rebuttal witness if Sandusky testified in his own defense ? news that alarmed the defense team and introduced a new wild card into their intense discussions about whether he should do so, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A source close to Jerry Sandusky told NBC News that "there was no one factor that led to the decision" not to have him testify Wednesday. Sandusky's lawyers were also known to be concerned that the defendant would be grilled on cross examination about apparently incriminating statements he made to NBC's Bob Costas in the "Rock Center with Brian Williams" show last November, including unaired portions that were played on the "Today" show for the first time this week. Defense lawyers also believed they had made some headway chipping away at the prosecution case this week, especially by playing a tape showing that police investigators may have coached Sandusky's alleged victims by telling them what other witnesses were saying about him.

The drama over whether Sandusky would take the stand continued to play out in court on Wednesday as defense lawyers were finishing their case. During a court recess in the morning, Sandusky's lawyers motioned Sandusky to enter a side room for a conference. They then joined prosecutors for a second conference behind closed doors meeting in Judge John Cleland's chambers. About 30 minutes later, Sandusky re-entered the courtroom, looking somber and chastened. At that point, Sandusky's lawyer rose and announced, "The defense rests."

TODAY's Savannah Guthrie discusses why the prosecution didn't call Jerry Sandusky's adopted son as a witness if he was able to provide damaging evidence.

Matt Sandusky first met his father at his Second Mile charity when he was 10 years old. He later went to live in the Sandusky home after he set fire to a barn in 1995. A judge approved the Sanduskys as foster parents for Matt and he was formally adopted by the couple when he was 18.

Matt Sandusky has been named during testimony in the trial. During the first day of testimony, one of the alleged victims ?listed in the grand jury report as "Victim 4" ? testified that Matt Sandusky seemed "nervous" when, after they played racketball with Jerry Sandusky, the three showered together and Jerry Sandusky then began throwing soap at him, "Victim 4" testified.

"At that point, Matt got up and left," he testified. "Well, not got up, but turned off the shower, went out and into another shower."

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