HARRISBURG, Pa. - All the judges in Penn State's home county removed themselves from potentially presiding over the child sex-abuse case against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and will be replaced by outside jurists, the Pennsylvania court system announced Thursday.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said in a news release that the four Centre County Common Pleas Court judges bowed out "to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest due to real or perceived connections" to Sandusky, the university or the charity for at-risk children Sandusky founded.
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John M. Cleland, a senior judge from McKean County, was appointed to take over the case, although another judge, Kathy A. Morrow, was named to handle matters until he can assume jurisdiction.
The court system said neither Cleland nor Morrow, who sits in Perry and Juniata counties, have any known connections to the defendant, the university or the charity.
Cleland chaired the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, established in the wake of the "kids-for-cash" courthouse scandal in which Luzerne County judges were accused of sending children to private detention centers for kickbacks.
Sandusky has maintained he is innocent of the 40 criminal counts against him for the alleged sexual abuse of eight boys over a 15-year period.
A preliminary hearing scheduled for Dec. 13 at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte also will be handled by an out-of-county jurist, Westmoreland County Senior District Judge Robert E. Scott.
He replaced the district judge who set bail when Sandusky was arrested Nov. 5, Leslie Dutchcot of State College. She had ties to Sandusky's charity.