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Jury in place, Sandusky trial to begin Monday

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Jury in place, Sandusky trial to begin Monday

From Comcast SportsNet
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) -- The attorneys arguing the child sexual abuse trial of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky have four days to figure out how to sway a jury heavy with connections to the school. Seven women and five men will hear opening statements Monday in the sweeping case that rocked the university and led to the ouster of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno. Four alternates also were chosen Wednesday after jury selection wrapped up in less than two days, a much brisker pace than some observers had expected given the school's deep roots in this mainly rural part of central Pennsylvania. But Judge John Cleland had insisted from the start that such connections wouldn't immediately rule out potential jurors so long as they could pledge to be impartial. Among the 16 jurors total selected, 10 had some tie -- either directly or indirectly -- to Penn State. One juror, a woman, is a professor who has taught for 24 years. Another woman has had football season tickets for decades. And one of the male jurors is a student who will be a senior this fall. Some legal experts said jurors with school connections might be inclined to come down hard on Sandusky, blaming him for Paterno's firing and the damage to the school's reputation. "From the prosecution's perspective, putting people on the jury with Penn State ties, their assessment might be these people might tend to disfavor Jerry Sandusky and the defense because he's responsible for dragging Penn State's name through the mud," said Chris Capozzi, a defense attorney in Pittsburgh and a former senior deputy attorney general under now-Gov. Tom Corbett. Capozzi, a Penn State graduate, left the attorney general's office in 2010. The state grand jury investigation of Sandusky began while Corbett was attorney general. Conversely, Capozzi said, Sandusky's defense lawyers appear satisfied those jurors can be fair and impartial, or that "people are going to be upset with the Office of the Attorney General and the way (the case) was handled ... and it's really the AG that's responsible for putting Penn State's name through the mud." Sandusky, 68, is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. He has denied the allegations. "In one sense, you worry about, this guy was for many years of his life a hero of that community, an idol," said St. Vincent College law professor Bruce Antkowiak, referring to Sandusky's role as founder of an acclaimed charity for youngsters. "On the other hand, there's also the consideration that there are people who believe this guy betrayed so much of what gave this institution and this area so much of the character and innocence that we love that he has besmirched it in such a profound way," Antkowiak added. Other jurors with ties to the school include a man whose father worked at Penn State's Office of Physical Plant for three decades and a woman who works as an administrative assistant at the university. On the list of potential witnesses, along with the young men who have accused Sandusky, are Paterno's widow and son; and assistant coach Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky naked in a team shower with a boy more than a decade ago and reported it to Paterno. The head coach testified to relaying the allegation to his superiors, fulfilling his legal obligation. He was ousted in November by school trustees in part for not acting more decisively against Sandusky. Paterno died of lung cancer two months later at 85. On Wednesday, defense attorney Joseph Amendola asked again for a delay after alleging that the judge's gag order was violated by an ABC News report that said the accuser identified in court papers as Victim 4 would be the first witness. Cleland denied the request. The day began with Amendola -- arriving with Sandusky in the morning -- telling reporters he was confident the nine jurors picked as of the start of Wednesday would give them a "fair shake." During a midday break in jury selection, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan said: "So far, so good." In court, Sandusky quietly leafed through a binder with plastic-covered pages. During another break, he turned to two media representatives and asked with a chuckle, "What did you guys do to deserve me?" and "How did you guys get stuck with this?" Several prospective jurors showed up at the courthouse in clothing with Penn State logos. And the web of Penn State connections was evident again when a group of 40 potential jurors were questioned early Wednesday. Ten indicated they worked at the university. Nineteen indicated they or a close family member had volunteered or contributed financially to Penn State. Fifteen said they knew someone on the prosecution's witness list, while 20 knew someone on Sandusky's defense list. Robert Del Greco, a criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh, and member of the Criminal Litigation Section council of the Allegheny County Bar Association, wasn't surprised by the connections to Penn State on the jury. He called the trial the biggest event in Centre County since the Nittany Lions' 1986 national title. What mattered, Del Greco said, was that jurors pledged to be impartial for a trial expected to last about three weeks. "This jury has been seated with breakneck speed. I'm impressed and surprised with the expeditious manner with which it occurred. I think it speaks (favorably) of Cleland and the lawyers involved," Del Greco said. "If that is a harbinger of things to come ... we'll have a verdict within weeks (rather) than months."

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.