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Sandusky accusers must use real identities at trial, judge rules

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Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, in an April 5 file photo.

Updated: 3:45 p.m. ET -- The judge in Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse trial ruled Monday that the alleged victims of the former Penn State assistant football coach will have to testify using their real names.

McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland also ruled that tweets or other electronic dispatches from reporters covering the trial, which begins Tuesday, will not be allowed, reversing an previous ruling.

At a pretrial hearing in Bellefonte, Pa., Cleland also resolved a dispute over research into potential jurors, rejecting a motion by Sandusky's lawyer to order the state attorney general's office to turn over information it has collected about potential jurors.


Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Sandusky's trial on 52 counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky, 68, who remains confined in his home in State College, Pa., has repeatedly denied the charges.

Lawyers for five Sandusky accusers had requested that their clients be allowed to testify under pseudonyms.

Cleland rejected the motion, but pledged that the court would "cooperate when possible" to protect witness privacy and personal information.

"Arguably any victim of any crime would prefer not to appear in court, not to be subjected to cross-examination, not to have his or her credibility evaluated by a jury - not to put his name and reputation at stake," the judge wrote. "But we ask citizens to do that every day in courts across the nation."

The judge noted the sensitivity of the issue, and the efforts that both sides have made to protect the men to this point. But "once the trial begins, the veil must be lifted," he wrote.

In a statement provided to the Patriot News newspaper, lawyers Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici, who represent multiple alleged Sandusky victims said they were “extremely disappointed” by the ruling.

"The victims in this case courageously came forward and provided extremely painful and personal information to investigators and prosecutors so that they could help protect children from further harm and exploitation,” the wrote. “The victims' experiences, the abuse they have suffered and its effects and their testimony at trial are certainly matters that are critical to the public interest. However, their personal identities are not."

Media organizations typically do not identify people who say they were sexually abused.

Cleland also denied a request by Sandusky's lawyer to order the attorney general's office to turn over information it has collected about potential jurors. Cleland said there was not enough evidence to warrant a hearing on the matter, and noted that prosecutors have said they have only done what a diligent defense attorney would do.

"Even if the commonwealth collected the information in this case in the manner the defense asserts and which the commonwealth denies, I do not believe that the information is constitutionally required to be turned over to the defense," Cleland wrote.

The basis for the defense request was an anonymous letter that claims to list the information prosecutors have collected.

"A motion filed by counsel must be supported by allegations of fact backed up with some credible basis to believe the allegations to be true," Cleland wrote. "Otherwise the court and counsel can be engaged in chasing chimeras."

Cleland, who was selected to preside over the Sandusky case after Centre County's judges recused themselves because of the defendant's connections to Penn State University, has not ruled on defense motions to have some or all of the charges thrown out. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday rejected a motion filed late Friday by Sandusky's attorneys seeking to delay the trial.

Cleland previously had said he would allow electronic communication, but not photographs or the recording or broadcasting of any verbatim account of the proceedings while court is in session.

Media groups, including The Associated Press, sought clarification on Friday, in response to which Cleland rescinded permission for any electronic communications from inside the Centre County courtroom.

"It is readily apparent from the allegations in the media's motion ... that the standard I applied in my definition is confusing to reporters, unworkable, and, therefore, likely unenforceable," the judge wrote.

The rules Cleland put in place are typical for Pennsylvania trials. He noted a state criminal procedure court rule that prohibits transmission of proceedings in session by phone, radio, TV, or "advanced communication technology."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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