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'Desperate move,' prosecutor says as Sandusky tries to overturn sex-abuse conviction

Patrick Smith / Getty Images file

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center, leaves the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case on Oct. 9, 2012 in Bellefonte, Penn.

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - In what a prosecutor described as a “last desperate move,” attorneys for convicted child abuser Jerry Sandusky argued Thursday that the former Penn State assistant football coach deserves a new trial because they didn’t have time to prepare for the first one.

Sandusky's lead counsel at trial, Joseph Amendola, testified that he was overwhelmed by reams of documents  – more than 12,000 pages between prosecutors files and his investigative efforts – and that the jury was improperly instructed about how long it took victims to report Sandusky’s abuse.

On cross-examination, however, Amendola admitted that a limited amount of evidence was necessary for him to cross-examine victims, and that no documents reviewed since the conviction that may have gone un-reviewed before trial would've helped the defense.

Sandusky was convicted on June 22, 2012 of 45 counts of child sexual abuse over a 15-year period. He is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence at a state prison.

The scandal and trial captivated the nation and tarnished the image of Penn State’s hallowed football program as well as its coach Joe Paterno, who died of lung cancer last January.

Sandusky has maintained his innocence since the allegations first surfaced.

Smile on his face
Sandusky, noticeably thinner and now nearly entirely white haired, made his first court appearance since his sentencing. Wearing a dark red Centre County prison jumpsuit he came bounding into the courtroom with a large smile on his face. He moved quickly towards his family and friends, exclaiming "Hi there!"

Sheriff’s deputies had to direct Sandusky to stop and to sit at the defense table. Sandusky waved frequently towards his wife Dottie during the hearing.

Sandusky was not called to the stand, but did appear to actively participate, being quick to pass exhibits to Norris Gelman, a Philadelphia lawyer now taking the lead in the appeals process.

In addition to Dottie Sandusky, their son Jeff, and about 10 Sandusky supporters were in the courtroom.

Also seen in the courtroom was the biological mother of Matt Sandusky, who surprising told police while his father’s trial was under way that he too had been abused by Sandusky.

Debra McCord told NBC News that Matt Sandusky is "getting stronger as time goes by."

Amendola's testimony opened the hearing which lasted just shy of two hours. He described the process in which he filed 50 motions, noting that "starting with January 28th, 1,114 pages of discovery material" were received.

More than 9,000 pages of documents were presented to Amendola and his team, he said. In addition, the Sandusky investigators generated another 3,000 pages of material. Noting that "we had to copy out of one machine in our office", Amendola said that "we didn't have the time to review much of that material."

Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan asked Amendola if he would “agree that most material was irrelevant," meaning material he requested and subpoenaed? Amendola responded "it turned out to be," adding "some material we found to be [relevant], but was inadmissible."

Gelman also argued that some of the judge's instructions to the jury could have been misleading, specifically that he said it should not matter when victims brought forward their charges.

Costas interview
An interview that NBC’s Bob Costas conducted on "Rock Center" with Sandusky before the trial also came up. The lead prosecutor, defense attorneys said, made it sound like Jerry Sandusky could speak to Costas but wouldn't testify in front of the jurors.

Outside court Gelman described Sandusky's prison life saying "he's in great spirits."

Sandusky has a TV in prison, two phone calls per month, and one personal visit.

On the chances of appeal, Gelman said, "We're in the race, I wouldn't count us out."

But outside the courtroom McGettigan called the appeal "a last desperate move" by Sandusky to overturn his conviction.

Judge John Cleland did decide anything on Thursday, but is expected to rule on the appeal within the next 30 days. If Sandusky does not get a new trial he can then appeal to Superior Court, and has indicated he will.