Legal Version of March Madness Coming

Trial for former Penn State administrators Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley shaping up as a real circus.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Now that former Penn State administrators Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley have all been held over for trial for allegedly covering up the actions of serial child abuser Jerry Sandusky, March Madness is right around the corner.

And we're not talking college hoops.

If this week's preliminary hearing at the Dauphin County Courthouse was any kind of sneak preview, the trial for Spanier, Schultz and Curley -- which likely will begin in March -- is shaping up as a circus.

There will be highs. There will be lows. There will be crazy sideshows.

The preview came this week. At one point Tuesday, when lead investigator Anthony Sassano was being questioned by defense attorneys, lead prosecutor Bruce Beemer objected eight times in a matter of minutes before angrily requesting a sidebar. It was granted, and District Judge William Wenner smoothed things out before testimony continued.

And yet there were other times when many in the stately courtroom -- including Sassano, who spent most of the hearing stationed at the prosecution table -- appeared to struggle to stay awake.

Different attorneys represented all three defendants. So while Beemer asked all of the questions for the prosecution, typically three different defense lawyers had a crack at the witnesses on cross examination. That meant the interesting fireworks were offset (and then some) by tedious queries on minutiae.

Having trouble sleeping at night? Get your hands on a transcript of multiple defense attorneys cross-examining IT experts on the size of Spanier's e-mail inbox.

The prosecution initially hoped to wrap up the prelim in one day. But it quickly became clear there was no chance of that happening, as opening witness Mike McQueary spent more than two hours on the stand Monday morning. This without fielding all of the hardballs with which defense counsel will surely pepper him come the trial (the scope of questioning at a prelim is limited).

Only eight people testified at this week's hearing, and two of them were the IT guys (who were only on the stand for a short time). With the addition of Spanier's grand jury testimony being read into the record and closing arguments, things did not wrap until well after 3 p.m. Tuesday. Among possible witnesses not called was former PSU general counsel Cynthia Baldwin, who the prosecution appears to be keeping as an ace in the hole.

What does that mean for the trial?

“I think we're looking at the case probably being tried in March,” Schultz defense attorney Tom Farrell said afterward. “Unfortunately, I think you can see by the way things proceeded yesterday and today, it will probably be tried in March … and April … and perhaps in May.”

Though he displayed a sharp sense of humor during the hearing, there was no smile on his face when he told the press about the prospect of a lengthy trial.

Speaking of which, the media was part of this spectacle, too. While the turnout was not nearly as heavy as it was for Sandusky's trial in June of 2012, it was sort of fiery. Curley attorney Caroline Roberto faced the bank of cameras after the hearing, and initially focused only on ripping McQueary. She then declined to answer a question about e-mail evidence that seemed to incriminate her client and went back to working over McQueary.

When she finished that and other questions came, she waved her hands as if to indicate she had even more to say on McQueary. Then a reporter in rumpled clothes in the front row shouted at her.

“We're not gonna do the story, OK!” he yelled, startling nearly everyone in the large vestibule that served as the interview area. “We're gonna do the story we're gonna do! We want to know what happened today!” Then he stormed off.

Roberto was stunned. But she gathered herself, literally LOL'd and said, “That's funny. OK, I will answer some questions related to what happened in the courtroom today and yesterday.”

She paused, and then, “As I said, Mr. McQueary made statements that were unlike what he stated in the past…”

Think attacking McQueary's credibility might be a priority for the defense?

The prosecution team -- which surely would have defended him -- slipped out of the courthouse without answering any questions. Not that the media was hurting for interview subjects.

Tom Kline, the dapper, high-profile attorney who represents one of Sandusky's victims, was on hand for the entire hearing and gladly accepted an invitation to step up to the main microphone when Tuesday's proceedings ended.

Also milling about the courtroom the last couple of days was outspoken Penn State Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano. He, too, was asked to address the press.

“I'll let due process runs its course,” he said. “That's all you've heard me say before. I've only ever wanted due process. And I think the Penn State community has only wanted due process.”

It's coming. In March.

To a big top near you.


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