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Sandusky begins appeal of sex abuse conviction

Jerry Sandusky (C) leaves the Centre County Courthouse after his sentencing in his child sex abuse case in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania October
Jerry Sandusky (C) leaves the Centre County Courthouse after his sentencing in his child sex abuse case in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania October

By Mark Shade

BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, appearing thinner but upbeat, returned to court on Thursday to hear his lawyers argue that his child sex abuse conviction should be tossed because they had insufficient time to prepare for trial.

Sandusky, 68, dressed in a red prison uniform, smiled at about a dozen supporters in the courtroom, including his wife, Dottie, as he was escorted to the defense table.

"How are you guys?" he asked the group, who had gathered at the same courthouse where the former assistant coach was convicted nearly seven months ago.

After the 90-minute hearing in the courthouse just a few miles from the Penn State campus, Sandusky, draped in a maroon coat marked CCCF for Centre County Correctional Facility and clasping a legal folder in his handcuffed hands, returned to a sheriff's cruiser to be taken back to prison to continue serving his 30-to-60-year sentence.

His lawyers urged the judge to overturn Sandusky's June conviction on charges of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, a scandal that rocked college sports, focused national attention on child sex abuse and tarnished the legacy of late Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

They argued that Sandusky should be granted a new trial because they were not given adequate time to fully prepare for the one that ended in his conviction on 45 counts of abuse.

Joseph Amendola, one of Sandusky's trial attorneys, took the witness stand and told Judge John Cleland that he had received more than 12,000 pages of documents and hundreds of pictures to study before the trial.

"We didn't have time to be thorough," Amendola testified.

Chief prosecutor Joe McGettigan asked Amendola if he had looked over all the evidence since the trial concluded. Amendola said he had reviewed it, and later acknowledged that he had found nothing that would have changed his trial strategy.

"I think Mr. Amendola properly and truthfully testified that among the reams of material he kept insisting that he needed, had he had time to review every single page it wouldn't have made a whit of difference in his defense," McGettigan said after the hearing.

Judge Cleland did not issue a ruling.

In March 2012, Cleland delayed the start date of the trial by three weeks, but later denied another motion by Amendola to further delay the trial. Pennsylvania appeals courts rejected an appeal of Cleland's ruling.

A grand jury in November charged the university's former president, Graham Spanier, with participating in a "conspiracy of silence" to cover up Sandusky's behavior.

Two other officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and retired Vice President Gary Schultz, also face new charges of child endangerment, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

They were charged in November 2011 with failure to report suspected abuse and perjury, and both have pleaded not guilty.

Trustees fired Spanier and the revered head football coach Paterno in November 2011 in the wake of the charges against Sandusky. Paterno died last January of lung cancer.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for college sports, slapped Penn State with a $60 million fine and voided the 14 seasons of football victories that Sandusky coached. At least three of Sandusky's victims have sued Penn State.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett sued the NCAA over its sanctions.

(Reporting by Mark Shade; Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Bernadette Baum, Nick Zieminski and Leslie Gevirtz)

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