Bob Costas and Jerry Sandusky

Bob Costas’ interview Monday with Jerry Sandusky on NBC stood out for something it wasn’t – It wasn’t about the interviewer using the occasion to call attention to himself.
That happens too often on TV. Instead, Costas used concise questions to let viewers draw their own conclusions.
The interview, taped at about 7:15 p.m. ET for the NBC newsmagazine show Rock Center that aired at 10 p.m., came about suddenly. In a phone interview Tuesday, Costas said he was set to interview Joseph Amendola, Sandusky’s lawyer, when Amendola, about 20 minutes before their scheduled talk, asked Costas if he’d like to talk by phone to Sandusky. Costas says there were “no restrictions” and he told Amendola: “You realize this questioning will be pointed. And he said, fine.” Costas says the attorney also told him that with his client having already “been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion,” he wanted to present Sandusky “as a person.”
Costas said of the last-minute switch – “Much of what I’d prepared for Amendola could be redirected. But a lot was off the cuff. … I was determined to not get bogged down in the particulars. I thought – What are the questions the viewers might want answered?”
Appropriately, Costas says he has “no concern” about whether the interview might be used in a future trial of the ex-Penn State assistant football coach, who is facing child sex abuse charges. Sandusky told Costas he’s “innocent of those charges” but also said “I have done some of those things” such as “horsing around” when showering with kids. Costas largely is keeping his own opinions to himself. “A lot of people would conclude that Sandusky is having difficulty coming to grips with his own behavior” – Costas says. “Even the very minimum he acknowledges is troubling and inappropriate.”

Bob Costas and Jerry Sandusky
Jerry Sandusky.

The decision by Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer to let the former Penn State assistant coach answer specific questions and haltingly refute allegations of pedophilia in a Monday interview with NBC’s Bob Costas represents an aggressive and risky defense strategy.
The goal of defense lawyer Joe Amendola was clearly to raise doubts about claims that Mr. Sandusky is a hardened sexual predator and instead suggest that he is a goofy, overgrown kid “horsing around” with boys who were “enjoying themselves” in a nonsexual way. Sandusky is charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of minors.
As evidenced by high-profile cases such as the Casey Anthony trial, legal proceedings are not open and shut cases, no matter how persuasive the evidence is to the public. But Sandusky’s interview with Mister Costas Monday might have merely added to the public presumption of guilt surrounding Sandusky.
Sandusky’s words and behavior bore striking similarities to the kind of coping strategies that sexual predators use to deflect guilt and psychologically survive being confronted with their crimes – says Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who represents victims of childhood sexual abuse.
“No sense can be made of Sandusky’s position or his lawyer’s decision to allow him to speak” – says Mister Anderson. Denying and minimizing “is the mantle that the molester always dons when confronted with the reality of their crimes, both in the court of public opinion and in the courtroom.”
In the Costas interview, Sandusky denied that he’s a pedophile, though he admitted that he “horsed around” with boys in showers, occasionally patting their legs, snapping towels, and hugging them, but “without intent of sexual contact.”
The allegations against Sandusky of child sex-abuse and its potential coverup have stunned Penn State University and its storied football program. The university’s board of trustees fired iconic head coach Joe Paterno, who, according to the Sandusky indictment, was told of Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in the showers of the Penn State football complex in 2002 but did not notify the police. The university’s president was also fired, and the assistant coach who, according to the indictment, witnessed the shower-room abuse, Mike McQueary, was suspended.

We talk about the presumption of innocence in this country, and the law says that it is supposed to apply even to Jerry Sandusky. The law says it applies to Sandusky even after Joe Paterno has already said he should have done more about Sandusky, and after Mike McQueary tells the grand jury what he saw once in a Penn State shower room, Sandusky with a 10-year-old boy pressed up against a shower room wall.
Joe Amendola, the lawyer who represents Sandusky around trying to make himself famous, talks and talks about how his client deserves that presumption of innocence, even after Amendola – in a creepy, lounge lizard way – sends Sandusky out to look guiltier than ever during that interview with Bob Costas on “Rock Center” Monday night.
At that moment, the unspeakable out of Penn State turns stupid, because of a small-time lawyer.
Here was Tom Harvey, the New York City criminal and civil rights attorney who has been in this paper for more than a week making so much sense out of his own outrage about this Penn State story, talking Tuesday about Amendola -
“He seems more focused on getting himself on as many national news shows as he can, rather than protecting his client. This is rather ironic, since the only person in the United States legally obligated to vigilantly defend Sandusky has taken it upon himself to encourage his client to waive the most basic constitutional right every criminal defendant in the country has, which means the right to remain silent. Instead, this guy Amendola has practically begged his client to talk.”
In the morning Tuesday, I was talking to Bob Costas, and he told the story of getting the telephone interview with Sandusky Monday night. He, Costas, had reached out to this Amendola the week before, set up an interview with him. Amendola showed up at NBC Monday night and about 15 minutes before that interview was to begin, he said to Costas: “How about I put you on the telephone with Jerry?”
He gave up his own client in that moment, not that anybody cares about that happening to Jerry Sandusky.
After that, you saw what you saw and heard from Sandusky. When asked by Costas if he was sexually attracted to underaged boys, Sandusky actually had to repeat the question, taking himself further into a place only inhabited by the damned.

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