Inside the Courtroom

Random notes and opinions from Friday's preliminary hearing in Bellefonte, Pa. For anyone who could not make it to the hearing, where two Nittany Lions were bound over for trial and four others had charges against them dropped, FOS writer Mark Brennan paints a picture of the proceedings.

Random points from a sports scribe taking in a hearing for the first time in nearly two decades. This does not include the basics of the what happened Friday (see that in our related story), just some general thoughts that are strictly my opinion.

• Line of the day: Bernd Imle saying he heard Anthony Scirrotto's girlfriend “hock up a lugie.” I had no idea anyone — let alone 20-year-olds — still used that phrase. He later said she “kneed me in the (groin).” From this view, Imle came across as by far the least sincere witness (he clinched that when he admitted lying to police). But he sure didn't mince words.

• At one point during the hearing, Penn State receiver Deon Butler left the courtroom for a while. Butler, who was not charged or called as a witness, returned with a bag full of sodas and snacks, including Skittles and Combos, and quietly went throughout the courtroom handing them to his teammates. Don't tell team nutritionist Kristine Clark.

• Given the number of people who admitted to underage drinking, it is amazing no one was arrested for that offense. That is still a crime, isn't it?

• Kevin Sanders, a resident at the apartment where the brawl took place, said he did not know who Chris Baker was when the football player was in the apartment. But he later identified him from a photo in part because Baker “has a larger head.” I wonder if anyone has ever been implicated in a crime in part because of the size of their head.

• All of the Penn State players in the courtroom had to restrain laughter when one witness testified that someone he believed to be a player said the following during the brawl: “You don't know who you're messing with. Wooooooo!.” Think Rick Flair. The witness could not identify the wooooer.

Justin King is a popular guy. He is the only football player people from the apartment recognized immediately. This despite have a regular-sized head.

• King's stepfather, former Lion receiver and current Gateway High coach Terry Smith, was among the family members in the court. Though the DA withdrew charges against King early in the morning, Smith and company stayed the entire day, sitting in the front row. Very classy gesture.

• Scirrotto's friend, Andrew Gross, testified at the hearing. He told a story all Spinal Tap fans will appreciate. Gross reported that when he, Scirrotto and about 12 others headed to the Meridian II building where the apartment in question was located, the men at the front of the pack initially went into the Meridian I building. They were making their way up the stairs when Gross let them know they were in the wrong building. They had to climb back down the stairs and leave that building before heading to the right one, he said.

• Assistant DA Steve Sloane asked for the ability to treat Gross as a hostile witness, which meant he could ask leading questions. The judge allowed it. From this angle, Gross, who flinched nervously throughout his testimony, was sidestepping questions clearly meant to paint his friend in a negative light.

• Various witnesses said the only light in the apartment living room where the brawl took place was supplied by an overhead unit in the nearby kitchen and a string of Christmas lights in the living room. And you thought you took a long time getting your decorations down.

• Several witnesses said State College police suggested they go to the autograph session before the Blue-White Game. The idea was to get a good, up-close look at certain players to see if the witnesses recalled them being in the apartment. Crashing an autograph session meant as a chance for children to get close to players? Is nothing sacred?

• In what became a running joke throughout the day, no one could pronounce the last name of Penn State offensive lineman Lou Eliades. Several witnesses reported seeing him in the apartment, though Eliades was not charged with anything. At one point, defense attorney Karen Muir referred to him as “Lou whose last name we can't pronounce.” For the record, it is El-EE-odd-ays.

• In a bit of a surprise, no one from the Penn State football coaching or support staffs showed up for the hearing. At least there was no one I recognized.

• The Centre County Courthouse is something straight out of a John Grisham novel. Old and stately, and surprisingly well maintained. Courtroom 1, where Friday's proceedings were held, is particularly picturesque. In some strange way, it looks like a courtroom ought to. If only they had more than two power outlets in the building.

• Attorneys from both sides of the issue seemed to get along very well. I'll repeat that I rarely cover legal proceedings. But I was surprised at the good-natured humor both sides showed at times. It made a long day more palatable.

• Likewise, Magisterial District Judge Carmine Prestia appeared to handle things well. He moved the pace along when the DA got repetitive and allowed leeway where needed. You can agree or disagree with his findings, but I think everyone received a fair shake in the way the hearing was conducted.

• Defense attorneys not-so-subtly accused State College police detective Stephen Bosak of misleading several players about his investigation. Muir, who represented Lydell Sargent and Jerome Hayes, asked Bosak if he did in fact “suggest to Lydell that he was a witness and not a suspect?” Bosak quickly answered: “I don't recall.”

• Bosak later said he found the players he interviewed to be affable. “Actually, I thought a lot of them were nice kids.”

• Bosak said he taped interviews with several players but did not have those interviews transcribed. He said all of the accused players talked to him voluntarily and waived their rights to have an attorney present.

• The trial was delayed several times by a transcription machine that kept breaking down.

• A member of Penn State's Office of Judicial Affairs was in attendance at the hearing, according to King's attorney (Ron McGlaughlin).

• No photography or video was allowed in the courtroom.

• All players approached declined comment after the hearing.


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