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Jerry Sandusky begins defense; coaches testify showers with young boys common

Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse trial is nearing an end as the defense begins presenting its case. NBC News' John Yang reports from Bellefonte, Pa.

Updated at 6:57 p.m. ET: Jerry Sandusky's attorneys began their defense Monday in Sandusky's trial on child sexual abuse charges, calling witnesses who testified that it wasn't unusual for football coaches to share showers with young boys at football and youth camps.

Sandusky, 68, the former longtime defensive coordinator at Penn State University, denies having abused 10 boys over 15 years as alleged in two grand jury reports and the indictment. Prosecutors argued over the past week that Sandusky used his connection to one of the nation's premier college football programs to "groom" the boys, whom he met through his Second Mile charity for troubled children, for sexual relationships.

John Yang and Chip Bell of NBC News contribute to this report by Kimberly Kaplan of NBC News and M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

Sandusky was originally charged with 52 counts in the indictment, but prosecutors dropped one count, a misdemeanor, on Monday, acknowledging that the alleged offense wasn't yet a crime when it was believed to have occurred. Judge John Cleland denied defense requests to dismiss many of the remaining counts.

Closing arguments are expected Thursday, and the jury, which will be sequestered during deliberations, could get the case as early as Thursday afternoon or Friday, Cleland said.

Defense attorneys opened their presentation after jurors heard from the mother of an alleged victim of Sandusky, who broke down on the stand as she described her son's withdrawal and health problems after he began spending some weekends at Sandusky's home.

Although Sandusky's accusers are being identified by name in court, NBC News and msnbc.com do not identify victims of sexual assaults.

The boy, identified in the indictment as "Victim 9," who is now 18, testified last week that Sandusky repeatedly raped him during the visits, sometimes with such force that he would bleed.

He said he didn't seek medical attention; instead, "I just dealt with it." He didn't say how.

Full coverage of the Jerry Sandusky trial

Legal analysis by Wes Oliver

But the man's mother testified Monday that she thought it was odd that her son would often come home from the sleepovers with no underwear.

"He'd say he had an accident and threw them out," she said.

When her son complained that stomach hurt him and he "couldn't use the bathroom right," she took him to a doctor, who she said diagnosed acid reflux and "nerves."

Through tears, the woman said she felt responsible for what happened because she encouraged her son to continue seeing Sandusky even though he told her he didn't want to. She said she believed at the time that Sandusky was doing good work.

Prosecutors may use unaired portions of NBC's Sandusky interview

The defense then began by calling former coaching colleagues of Sandusky, seeking to demonstrate that as a famous football coach with many public commitments, he wouldn't have had the time to plan and carry out the sex crimes he's accused of.

Dick Anderson, a former Penn State assistant coach who went on to be head football coach at Rutgers University and an assistant coach in the National Football League, testified that coaches at prominent programs "all had those responsibilities where we had to recruit, which meant getting on the road."

"There were clinics that all of us did at one time or another at various locations, so those were things that we had to do," he said. "There were banquets, dinners, various places we were asked to speak at that went on regularly."

"Jerry had probably more than us, being defensive coordinator and being a national name," Anderson said. "He did a lot of things with speaking engagements — not just Second Mile, but things he did for banquets" and other events around the country.

Anderson and another former Penn State assistant coach, Booker Brooks, testified that it isn't unusual for coaches to share showers with their players and youth camp charges after a day of hard physical work, saying he had done so himself many times.

"Throughout my life as a football coach, I've showered with younger men than myself — throughout my life and even currently right now, since I am a grandfather I take my grandchild to the local YMCA. Since she's not old enough to go into a room by herself, we go in and we shower together," Brooks said.

Sandusky enjoyed stellar reputation
Asked about Sandusky's reputation, Brooks said it was "exemplary, topnotch — other words like that come to mind."

Other witnesses also testified to Sandusky's reputation, including a former fundraising consultant for Second Mile and a local schoolteacher, saying he was widely respected in the community and appeared to have a special rapport with troubled children.

"Jerry had a very unique way, and many of us were inspired by this, how he could relate to youth of all ages and really get to their level and communicate," said David Pasquinelli, the fundraising consultant.

The teacher, Brett Whitmore, a former social worker, said he learned from Sandusky the importance of trying to help hard-to-reach children.

"As I went on to social work and teaching now, I've kind of carried that with me — that people who are going to go on and do great things will always go a step further to make sure the best interest of kids is being served," Whitmore said. 

One count dropped
Before testimony resumed Monday in Bellefonte, Pa., the defense asked Cleland to dismiss many of the counts, arguing that prosecutors and the alleged victims had failed to establish specific dates and times when the offenses occurred, making it impossible for Sandusky's lawyers to investigate possible alibis.

Cleland questioned the "very broad representations made by the commonwealth" about when many of the alleged incidents occurred, but he denied all of the motions. He said he believed further information developed during the trial "now meets the standards of due process, though early on I was not persuaded that was the case."

Sandusky now faces 51 counts after prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, an allegation that involved a man identified in the indictment as "Victim 7." He testified last week that the offense happened in 1995 or 1996, but the statute, which addresses unlawful contact with a child, didn't apply until 1997, prompting prosecutors to withdraw it.

Three other counts involving alleged victim No. 7 remain.

Cleland last week granted a defense motion to permit testimony from a psychologist that Sandusky has histrionic personality disorder, which might have led him to behave dramatically or inappropriately to get attention. They argued that that could raise reasonable doubt in jurors' minds that Sandusky's unorthodox statements and public actions are manifestations of the disorder, not seeking illegal sex with minors.

Does it matter if Sandusky has a personality disorder?

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