- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky stunned a packed courtroom and backed out of a preliminary hearing at the last minute Tuesday, avoiding a face-to-face confrontation with accusers who his lawyer said were just trying to cash in by making up stories of child sex abuse.

Sandusky pleaded not guilty and vowed afterward to “stay the course, to fight for four quarters.”

His lawyer, Joe Amendola, then took the defense to the courthouse steps and spoke before dozens of news cameras for an hour, saying some of the 10 men who accuse Sandusky of molesting them as children were only out to profit from civil lawsuits against the coach and Penn State.

A prosecutor said about 11 witnesses, most of them alleged victims, were ready to testify at the hearing.

An attorney for one called Sandusky a “coward” for not hearing his accusers’ testimony and derided the arguments that they were out for money, saying many were too old to sue Sandusky under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.

“It makes my blood boil,” said Harrisburg lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who read a statement by his client, identified in a grand jury report as Victim 4, who was said to have become a fixture at one point in the Sandusky household.

“All the money in the world isn’t going to bring them back to where they were before the sexual assaults.”

Sandusky, 67, faces 52 criminal counts for what a grand jury called a series of sexual assaults and abuse of 10 boys dating back to the 1990s, in hotel swimming pools, the basement of his home in State College and in the locker room showers at Penn State, where he coached football until his retirement in 1999.

The charges devastated the university and its storied football program and led to the departures of coach Joe Paterno and the university’s president and charges against two administrators accused of lying to a grand jury and failing to report the suspected abuse.

Amendola told reporters Tuesday that Sandusky is an emotional, physical man — “a loving guy, an affectionate guy” — who never did anything illegal. The lawyer likened Sandusky’s behavior to his own Italian family in which “everybody hugged and kissed each other.”

The lawyer accused the unidentified victims of seeking to cash in through false accusations and said the preliminary hearing would not have allowed him to delve into the witnesses’ credibility.

Amendola said he decided to waive the preliminary hearing late Monday after concluding that the evidence would be one-sided, and after prosecutors agreed to give early warning of any further charges and to keep Sandusky’s bail at $250,000.

A spokesman for the prosecutors said Sandusky’s bail conditions were adequate, but made no other promises.

Sandusky waived his rights today. We waived nothing,” said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.

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