In an interview with Bob Costas, ex-Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sunk his own ship. Sandusky is facing 40 counts of sexual abuse of minors. With such serious criminal charges pending, even though he has a right to remain silent, Sandusky chose to be interviewed by Bob Costas. When Costas asked Sandusky whether or not he was sexually attracted to young boys, Sandusky responded, “Sexually attracted? I enjoy young people; I like to be around them…But no…I’m not sexually attracted to them.”
Later, on Rock Center, in yet another interview, Sandusky told Brian Williams that he engaged in horseplay with underage boys and showered with them after workouts. However, he insisted it was all innocent.
When a person is charged with a crime, he has the absolute Constitutional right to remain silent. That means that when the police question him, he has the right to say that he does not want to answer any questions. This silence cannot be used against him in any way. The prosecutor can’t tell the jury at trial that he must be guilty because he didn’t answer the police officer’s questions. In fact, if a potential juror would hold a defendant’s silence against him, that juror must be struck and cannot serve as a juror in the trial.
However, the court of public opinion is another animal altogether. When a criminal case makes headlines in the news, a defendant then has to decide whether to let the media say what they will while remaining silent or to defend himself in the press. All too often, defendants decide to speak out to try to counter the bashing they are receiving in the press and they do so to their detriment.
When a person is accused of a crime and he hires an attorney, his attorney should be his mouthpiece. The attorney is the one who should be making any statements to the press. Or, depending on the situation, it may be necessary to hire a publicist who will handle the media in consultation with the criminal attorney. Then, if a defendant decides to speak with the media, it should only be done after extensive preparation with his attorney and publicist. He should be prepared to answer the reporters’ questions in a straightforward fashion and if it is his defense to deny the allegations, that denial must be adamant and immediate, particularly in a case involving child molestation.
Instead, Sandusky gave numerous interviews where he essentially shot himself in the foot. When a person is asked if he is sexually attracted to young boys, his answer must be a resounding “No! Absolutely not.” By circumventing the question, Sandusky makes himself look guilty. And in the court of public opinion, the case is over with his head on a silver platter.
Anytime a person is charged with a crime that makes the news, he should think twice about giving interviews. It may hurt his public image, but it can save his criminal case down the line. Every interview that Sandusky gave to members of the press is admissible evidence against him in a criminal trial. Any admissions are always damning evidence, both in the courtroom and beyond.