(CNN) — Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky broke his long courtroom silence Friday, his voice rising to say “absolutely not” when asked whether he committed the crimes for which he was convicted four years ago.
It’s the first time Sandusky, 72, has taken the stand.
He’s seeking to overturn his conviction, claiming defense lawyers bungled the 2012 trial in which he was found guilty of sexually abusing 10 boys and sentenced to at least 30 years in prison.
“That would be dirty and foreign to me,” Sandusky replied Friday when his lawyer asked about his guilt.
He arrived at the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County in an orange prison uniform, handcuffed and shackled, shortly before 9 a.m.
Sandusky’s wife Dottie was in the courtroom, surrounded by family and friends.
Before taking the stand, Sandusky smiled at his wife and supporters — twice placing his hand over his heart.
Sandusky has to convince the Pennsylvania court his trial counsel was so ineffective that it undermined the fairness of the proceedings. In court filings, his current lawyer described it as, “A modern day Salem Witch Trial.”
His lawyer, Al Lindsay, sought to show — through his line of questioning — that Sandusky’s legal team failed to adequately prepare him for trial.
In a court filing this year, Lindsay wrote: “If a textbook were to be written on how not to try a sex offense case involving overwhelming media attention, this case would provide the model.”
Sandusky’s filing attacks the previous attorneys for a number of trial decisions, perhaps most notably for not calling Sandusky to testify and for not seeking a court ruling to block his adopted son Matt Sandusky from testifying against him to rebut his testimony if he took the stand.
“This is a story of how the media, overzealous law enforcement, a biased grand jury judge, an abused grand jury process, prosecutorial malfeasance, a discredited and pseudoscientific type of therapy, greed and serial instances of ineffective assistance of counsel resulted in transforming an innocent man into one of this country’s most infamous ‘child predators,'” Lindsay said in his filing.
Matt Sandusky, who told the public during the trial that his father sexually abused him, too, was one of the men who filed a civil lawsuit against Penn State alleging its officials — including coaching legend Joe Paterno — did not act on information they received regarding Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.
At his sentencing, Jerry Sandusky and his wife said they were victims of a conspiracy created by ungrateful boys — including Matt, who was one of six children they adopted — and a scandal-hungry news media.
More criminal cases possible?
In October, a lower court judge ruled that Sandusky could get another day in court, but not in the way Sandusky desires.
Centre County Judge Thomas King Kistler ruled that decades-old sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky from a Boston man could be brought in another criminal trial despite the statute of limitations.
Kistler ruled that the Pennsylvania statute had an exception for state employees and the former Penn State coach falls under it.
The ruling also “blew the doors wide open” for other victims who previously believed they were outside the statute, Daniel Kiss, the attorney who filed the petition on behalf of the Boston man, said at the time of the ruling.
Sandusky was convicted of acts against 10 boys, but at least 30 men were involved in a civil settlement with Penn State, and the number could grow.