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McClatchy Newspapers, Published June 17 2012

Friend says observers shouldn’t rush to judgment about Sandusky

Skip Dreibelbis hopes Jerry Sandusky’s defense team is ready to put forth a strong case.

Dreibelbis grew up near the Sandusky family in Lemont, Pa., and spent time at their home when he was young.

And Dreibelbis said he never saw hints of the Jerry Sandusky portrayed last week by prosecution witnesses – a child predator who stalked young boys with gifts before engaging them in sexual acts.

The Sandusky child sex abuse trial resumes Monday morning in Bellefonte, and the defense should soon begin calling its witnesses.

“When you hear testimony about such a heinous type of accusation, you immediately want to presume the worst. But that’s not what our country is founded on,” Dreibelbis said. “We have a system based on the ‘presumption of innocence,’ where even the shadow of a doubt means you’re not guilty. Hopefully, the truth will come out. But in today’s society, it seems like the presumption of innocence doesn’t exist.”

Dreibelbis played football at State College Area High School and at Penn State.

He was a reserve place-kicker with the Nittany Lions in 1986, when a Sandusky-devised defensive strategy helped Penn State upset Miami and win a national championship.

“I realize that speaking out is a huge risk,” said Dreibelbis, founder of True Blue Auctions in State College. “Everybody’s going to look at you as a freak. But the defense hasn’t even made its presentation yet and we’ve got him convicted.”

He added: “If Jerry is guilty of what they say he has done, he needs to pay the ultimate price. I think he would deserve the death penalty. But unless something major comes out (Monday), I think it’s a very weak case. To me, Jerry didn’t fit the mold of someone who could do what he’s accused of. That’s just me speaking as a neighbor, as a former player.”

Dreibelbis spent time in the military and said he’s done some police training.

His Facebook page shows a young man in a U.S. Marines uniform inset with a large photo of a smiling Dreibelbis on the field at Beaver Stadium during a football game.

He has had run-ins with the legal system himself, including a difficult divorce and child-custody battle that included his ex-wife filing a protection-from-abuse order. He also sued the State College police when he was not permitted to videotape his meetings with police, me-dia archives show.

Dreibelbis said he has not been subpoenaed to testify for the defense, but would take the stand if called.

Of Sandusky defense attorney Joe Amendola, Dreibelbis said, “I hope he does it well and does it right. He’s got a man’s life in his hands.”

He added: “Amendola knows who I am. I told Sandusky that I’m here to help in any way that I can.”

Dreibelbis is hoping Amendola explores two areas: a lack of physical evidence linking Sandusky to sexual encounters with young boys, and the poten-tial financial motivation for the alleged victims in building a case for civil litigation against Penn State, where some alleged attacks occurred, according to testimony.

“Honestly, they have nothing on this guy other than what was said by these people who were coached by their attorneys in an attempt to get at the coffers of Penn State,” he said. “There’s a financial gain to be made here.

“But a man’s life is at stake. I’m not sure any-body’s thinking about the ramifications. … For the prosecutors, it’s not about the truth. It’s about win-ning at all costs.”

Dreibelbis wonders: Why are there no computer records showing Sandusky likes to look at websites showing boys in sexual situations?

“There have been a lot of guys who have been convicted of murder that now are being found to be innocent through DNA testing,” he said. “It’s a flawed system.”

And: “The media, it seems like they’ve already got their guy burning at the stake.”

Dreibelbis said he has reached out to the Sandusky family, and has asked that others at his church pray for them.

“In all fairness, if he’s done something wrong he has to pay for it. But I hope not,” Dreibelbis said.

“Everybody is worried about the kids, and rightly so,” he said. “But I would hope people are willing to look at the other side be-fore making judgment.

“I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. That’s it, man. And I just want the right thing to come about here – whatever that is.”