Bears

Sandusky waives hearing, will fight charges

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Sandusky waives hearing, will fight charges

From Comcast SportsNet

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP)Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky opted against forcing his accusers to make their claims of child sex abuse in a packed courtroom Tuesday but then took his case to the courthouse steps as his lawyer assailed the credibility of the alleged victims and witnesses.

There will be no plea negotiations, defense lawyer Joseph Amendola said. This is a fight to the death.

Waiving such a preliminary hearing is not unusual but it was unexpected in this case: Amendola repeatedly had said his client was looking forward to facing his accusers. Afterward, he called the cancellation a tactical decision to prevent the men from reiterating the same claims they made to the grand jury.

Lawyers for the alleged victims said some were relieved they would not have to make their claims in public before a trial, but others said they had steeled themselves to face Sandusky and were left disappointed.

It would have been apparent from watching those boys and their demeanor that they were telling the truth, said Howard Janet, a lawyer for a boy whose mother contacted police in 1998 after her son allegedly showered with Sandusky.

Sandusky has denied the allegations, which led to the departures of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and the university president. He is charged with more than 50 counts that accuse him of sexually abusing 10 boys over the span of 12 years.

Amendola said he believed some of the young men may have trumped up their claims and that others may came forward in a bid to make money by suing Sandusky, Penn State and the charity Sandusky founded.

Were pursuing a financial motivation, Amendola said, Finances and money are great motivators.

Michael Boni, a lawyer representing an accuser known as Victim 1, said Amendola was reaching into his bag of tricks.

I can tell you that Victim No. 1 is credible. He was the first one to come forward, he said.

Sandusky told reporters as he left the courthouse that he would stay the course, to fight for four quarters and wait for the opportunity to present our side.

Many defendants waive preliminary hearings, during which prosecutors must show that they have probable cause to bring the case to trial. Prosecutors in this case were expected to meet that relatively low bar, in part because the case been through a grand jury.

Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said the move provides maximum protection to most importantly the victims in this case.

It avoids their having to testify for a second time, Costanzo said. They will of course testify at a trial in the case.

Costanzo also said there had been no discussions about a plea bargain.

Sandusky also will waive his next court appearance, an arraignment, that had been scheduled for Jan. 11, Amendola said. He remains under house arrest.

The accusers who were prepared to testify were split in their reactions to the hearing being canceled.

Boni said he was encouraged that the accusers do not have to relive the horrors they experience up on the witness stand by having to testify at the hearing and at trial.

Ben Andreozzi, a lawyer representing another accuser, read a statement from his client, who called it the most difficult time of his life.

I cant believe they put us through this until the last second, the statement read. I still will stand my ground, testify and speak the truth.

Ken Suggs, another attorney for one of the accusers, called Sandusky a coward for not facing the young men.

Witnesses have contended before the grand jury that Sandusky committed a range of sexual offenses against boys as young as 10, assaulting them in hotel swimming pools, the basement of his home in State College and in the locker room showers at Penn State, where the 67-year-old former assistant football coach once built a national reputation as a defensive mastermind.

Sandusky has told NBC and The New York Times that his relationship to the boys who said he abused them was like that of an extended family. Sandusky characterized his experiences with the children as precious times and said the physical aspect of the relationships just happened that way and didnt involve abuse.

Amendola said Sandusky was always emotional and physicala loving guy, an affectionate guywho never did anything illegal. The lawyer likened Sanduskys behavior to his own Italian family in which everybody hugged and kissed each other.

Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, a year after the first known abuse allegation reached police when a mother told investigators Sandusky had showered with her son during a visit to the Penn State football facilities. Accusations surfaced again in 2002, when graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported another alleged incident of abuse to Paterno and other university officials.

The grand jury probe began only in 2009, after a teen complained that Sandusky, then a volunteer coach at his high school, had abused him.

Sandusky first groomed him with gifts and trips in 2006 and 2007, then sexually assaulted him more than 20 times in 2008 through early 2009, the teen told the grand jury.

Amendola on Tuesday attacked McQueary by citing an anonymously sourced newspaper report that claimed the former graduate assistant changed his story when speaking to a family friend. The defense attorney said McQueary would derail the prosecution and other accusers also would be questioned.

McQueary was always the centerpiece of the prosecutions case, he said.

No one answered the door at Mike McQuearys home and his father, John, told The Associated Press that he wouldnt respond to Amendolas comments.

Sandusky founded The Second Mile, an organization to help struggling children, in 1977, and built it into a major charitable organization, headquartered in State College with offices in other parts of Pennsylvania.

Two university officials have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuseathletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday in Harrisburg.

Curley has been placed on leave and Schultz has returned to retirement in the wake of their arrests. The scandal brought down university president Graham Spanier and longtime coach Paterno, who was fired last month.

Meanwhile, officials at Juniata College said Tuesday that Sandusky insinuated himself into the schools football program last year, despite being denied an official position because he failed a background check.

Sandusky had sought a volunteer coaching position at the Division III school in May 2010, more than a year after a high school where he volunteered began investigating his contact with a student there.

Sandusky attended Juniata practices and games despite the athletic directors directives to the then-head coach that Sandusky couldnt associate with the team, a school spokesman said.

The spokesman, John Wall, said the school has since taken steps to ensure better communication between coaches and administrators.

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing. 

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

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USA TODAY

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

The goals came in bunches for the Blackhawks in their Oct. 5 season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Blackhawks, it was a nice memory, albeit one that seems far away given they went from scoring at will through their first two games to not being able to buy a goal for a sizeable stretch.

As for the Penguins, well, you figure their memoires of that game means they’ll be more than a little ticked off when the Blackhawks arrive on Saturday night.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of a few losses like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “You certainly remember them more than other losses.”

This is kind of/sort of about the Penguins, who in the first meeting were clearly tired not only from two Stanley Cup runs but also from their season opener/banner raising the prior night. But it’s more about the Blackhawks who, after a lengthy scoring drought, are starting to get their offense going again (15 goals in their last three games).

And while they’d like to shore up their defense – they blew a 4-1 lead vs. New Jersey and just about did it again vs. the New York Rangers – overall they’re trending in the right direction. And just as they face the team against whom they played their best game of the season.

“I’m sure [the Penguins] will be excited about playing us and making things better. They’re playing well, winning some games. For [us], we’re looking for more consistency in our game with the puck and we’re generating some offense,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think it has some ways to improve. That was one night, whether it was the quality of the plays we made or [what], we seemed like we had the puck a lot and did some good things with it. We haven’t seen much of that lately so I think that maybe we can recapture a little bit of that with the puck as well.”

In the past three games the Blackhawks haven’t just reignited their offense, they’ve regained their confidence. Their lines are finding some chemistry. As frustrating as their scoring drought was, they’re hoping it’s behind them.

“At some point in the season I feel like every team goes through it, either in the beginning, the middle or toward the end. You just don’t want to have it right at the end of the season,” Ryan Hartman said. “You can look at it in in a positive way. Hopefully we got that part over with and now we’re just coming in confident and hopefully we put the puck in the net.”

The Blackhawks got off to a hot goal-scoring start against the Penguins by doing the right things: shooting, pouncing on rebounds, getting traffic in front of the net and capitalizing. As they head into their 20th game of the season, the Blackhawks are finally getting back to what worked so well in Game 1.

“Things dried up for a bit but I think we have a good rotation going here with the lines; the chemistry’s starting to fill in a little bit. Some guys are stepping up. [Artem] Anisimov had a big night and Brinsky’s [Alex DeBrincat] playing great. It’s good to see those guys step up. It makes you want to be that next guy who’s called up to step up in the next game,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s good to see some goals go into the net. More important, it’s good to see some wins. But we’re playing the right way and hopefully this will trend in the right direction for us.”