Thursday, July 10, 2014

Local experts feel sentence is suitable

February 17. 2013 8:49AM

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WILKES-BARRE – Local legal and victim rights professionals said Tuesday they thought the 30-to-60-year sentence Jerry Sandusky received was expected and appropriate.

The 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach was sentenced Tuesday by Judge John Cleland after being found guilty in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse; prosecutors say he molested 10 boys over a 15-year period.

"Any sentence could be a life sentence (for Sandusky) because of his age," said local defense attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., who previously served as Luzerne County's district attorney and a county judge. "Thirty to 60 years was not unexpected."

Before being sentenced, Sandusky proclaimed his innocence, noting he knows he did not commit the "disgusting acts" he's alleged to have committed. He plans to appeal.

Olszewski said there may be at least one issue Sandusky can raise on appeal: Cleland refused to allow even a single continuance of the trial when requested by defense counsel.

"That's a legitimate and reasonable issue on appeal," Olszewski said. "In the vast majority of cases, an initial defense request for continuance is granted. However, I don't know the circumstances under which Judge Cleland granted continuances."

Olszewski said one has to keep in mind there were at least 10 victims in the case and that Cleland felt that each of them deserved a consecutive sentence for each conviction.

"(A judge) has to follow the sentencing guidelines given to them by legislature and appellate courts," Olszewski said. "It would be hard to imagine that anyone would complain that 30 to 60 years for a 68-year-old man is not a sufficient sentence."

Victims were heard

Janet MacKay, the executive director of the county's Victims Resource Center, said it's not so much that the sentence Sandusky received was appropriate, but that the victims in the case were heard and believed.

"It's pretty obvious (Sandusky) won't be hurting anyone again," MacKay said. "(That Sandusky's victims came forward) gives a strong message that you can tell (if abuse is happening) and there will be consequences."

MacKay said as a victims advocate, she is not focused on the end result – but whether the victims get what they need to heal.

"We have no control over what happens in the criminal justice system, sometimes it's not always a positive outcome," MacKay said. "(Sentencing) can provide closure to victims and provide healing and support, but they need to know someone believes them."

MacKay said healing for victims doesn't end at sentencing, but that it closes one chapter so a victim can move on to another point in the healing process.

"(The victims) will never get over it," said Jackie Musto Carroll, who had served as the county's district attorney and currently works in a private practice in Pittston. "But, each step they go through helps them get through it."

That Sandusky received a "severe" sentence, coupled with his age, will provide some comfort for his victims.

"It was an appropriate sentence. He really negatively impacted so many lives that everyone expected (him to receive) a hefty sentence," Musto Carroll said.

Sandusky may say he is innocent, Musto Carroll said, but a jury of 12 felt differently.

"A jury sat through this graphic testimony and painstakingly went through the evidence," Musto Carroll said. "And (Sandusky) may be the only one that believes he didn't do this."

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