BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday morning, eliminating the likelihood that he would have come face-to-face in court with several of the young men who say Sandusky sexually abused them.
The purpose of this proceeding was for Senior District Judge Robert Scott to decide whether the prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed to a trial, but that was considered a formality because the accusations against Sandusky were already made under oath before a grand jury.
Several lawyers for the alleged victims said afterward that they hoped this development was a sign Sandusky is open to a plea deal. But Senior Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo of the Pennsylvania State Attorney General's office said there have been no plea discussions with Sandusky.
Sandusky, charged with 52 counts of sexually molesting 10 boys, told reporters on his way out of court, "We fully intend to put together the best possible defense and stay the course for four full quarters. We await the opportunity to tell our side."
Sandusky has denied the charges in two separate interviews, admitting only that he engaged in "horseplay" in the showers with several of the young boys, many of whom he is alleged to have been introduced to through The Second Mile organization he created in 1977 to help at-risk children.
Costanzo said 11 witnesses were prepared to testify at the hearing, but he declined to identify who they were. Lawyers for several of the victims said their clients had been preparing to testify at the hearing, reciting the same stories of abuse that they testified to under oath to the grand jury.
When Sandusky arrived at Centre County Courthouse just past 8 a.m., a half hour before the hearing was scheduled to begin, the room was already filled to its capacity of about 250, mostly with media and members of the public who had gained access through a special online lottery system.
Scott started the hearing by asking the two sides whether they had any matters they wished to discuss before the proceedings began. Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, stood up before Scott was even finished speaking, then asked if he could approach the bench for a private chat with the judge and prosecutors.
After a discussion that lasted just a few seconds, the lawyers returned to their respective benches and Scott asked Sandusky if he understood that he was waiving his right to the hearing. Sandusky nodded and said yes. And just like that, the preliminary hearing was finished, lasting barely a minute.
Amendola called the decision to waive the hearing "a tactical measure," saying the judge would not allow him during cross-examination to question the alleged victims about their credibility.
Costanzo said he was pleased that the young men who say Sandusky sexually abused them didn't have to testify again until a trial which Amendola estimated would occur in the fall of 2012
"We're not disappointed over something like this," Costanzo said. "We're ready to proceed. He's the one giving up rights. We're not giving up anything."
But Howard Janet, the attorney for the young man identified in the grand jury as Victim 6, accused Sandusky of "testing the waters" to see if the young men actually would testify, then deciding to waive the hearing only after it became clear they were prepared to do so.
Amendola said this decision had nothing to do with "cowardice or gamesmanship," adding that they reached it Monday night after meeting with prosecutors. He said prosecutors "insisted" on proceeding with the hearing in the event that Sandusky changed his mind overnight.
Sandusky has also waived his next scheduled appearance in court, which is his arraignment on Jan. 11, according to Amendola.