Jury in place, Sandusky trial to begin Monday

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Jury in place, Sandusky trial to begin Monday

From Comcast SportsNet
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) -- The attorneys arguing the child sexual abuse trial of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky have four days to figure out how to sway a jury heavy with connections to the school. Seven women and five men will hear opening statements Monday in the sweeping case that rocked the university and led to the ouster of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno. Four alternates also were chosen Wednesday after jury selection wrapped up in less than two days, a much brisker pace than some observers had expected given the school's deep roots in this mainly rural part of central Pennsylvania. But Judge John Cleland had insisted from the start that such connections wouldn't immediately rule out potential jurors so long as they could pledge to be impartial. Among the 16 jurors total selected, 10 had some tie -- either directly or indirectly -- to Penn State. One juror, a woman, is a professor who has taught for 24 years. Another woman has had football season tickets for decades. And one of the male jurors is a student who will be a senior this fall. Some legal experts said jurors with school connections might be inclined to come down hard on Sandusky, blaming him for Paterno's firing and the damage to the school's reputation. "From the prosecution's perspective, putting people on the jury with Penn State ties, their assessment might be these people might tend to disfavor Jerry Sandusky and the defense because he's responsible for dragging Penn State's name through the mud," said Chris Capozzi, a defense attorney in Pittsburgh and a former senior deputy attorney general under now-Gov. Tom Corbett. Capozzi, a Penn State graduate, left the attorney general's office in 2010. The state grand jury investigation of Sandusky began while Corbett was attorney general. Conversely, Capozzi said, Sandusky's defense lawyers appear satisfied those jurors can be fair and impartial, or that "people are going to be upset with the Office of the Attorney General and the way (the case) was handled ... and it's really the AG that's responsible for putting Penn State's name through the mud." Sandusky, 68, is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. He has denied the allegations. "In one sense, you worry about, this guy was for many years of his life a hero of that community, an idol," said St. Vincent College law professor Bruce Antkowiak, referring to Sandusky's role as founder of an acclaimed charity for youngsters. "On the other hand, there's also the consideration that there are people who believe this guy betrayed so much of what gave this institution and this area so much of the character and innocence that we love that he has besmirched it in such a profound way," Antkowiak added. Other jurors with ties to the school include a man whose father worked at Penn State's Office of Physical Plant for three decades and a woman who works as an administrative assistant at the university. On the list of potential witnesses, along with the young men who have accused Sandusky, are Paterno's widow and son; and assistant coach Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky naked in a team shower with a boy more than a decade ago and reported it to Paterno. The head coach testified to relaying the allegation to his superiors, fulfilling his legal obligation. He was ousted in November by school trustees in part for not acting more decisively against Sandusky. Paterno died of lung cancer two months later at 85. On Wednesday, defense attorney Joseph Amendola asked again for a delay after alleging that the judge's gag order was violated by an ABC News report that said the accuser identified in court papers as Victim 4 would be the first witness. Cleland denied the request. The day began with Amendola -- arriving with Sandusky in the morning -- telling reporters he was confident the nine jurors picked as of the start of Wednesday would give them a "fair shake." During a midday break in jury selection, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan said: "So far, so good." In court, Sandusky quietly leafed through a binder with plastic-covered pages. During another break, he turned to two media representatives and asked with a chuckle, "What did you guys do to deserve me?" and "How did you guys get stuck with this?" Several prospective jurors showed up at the courthouse in clothing with Penn State logos. And the web of Penn State connections was evident again when a group of 40 potential jurors were questioned early Wednesday. Ten indicated they worked at the university. Nineteen indicated they or a close family member had volunteered or contributed financially to Penn State. Fifteen said they knew someone on the prosecution's witness list, while 20 knew someone on Sandusky's defense list. Robert Del Greco, a criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh, and member of the Criminal Litigation Section council of the Allegheny County Bar Association, wasn't surprised by the connections to Penn State on the jury. He called the trial the biggest event in Centre County since the Nittany Lions' 1986 national title. What mattered, Del Greco said, was that jurors pledged to be impartial for a trial expected to last about three weeks. "This jury has been seated with breakneck speed. I'm impressed and surprised with the expeditious manner with which it occurred. I think it speaks (favorably) of Cleland and the lawyers involved," Del Greco said. "If that is a harbinger of things to come ... we'll have a verdict within weeks (rather) than months."

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

Virginia has added another quarterback to its roster for next season as Kurt Benkert of East Carolina announced Sunday that he will transter to UVa.

Benkert announced on April 25 that he intended to transfer. The move to Charlottesville will reunite the quarterback with former head coach Ruffin McNeill who now is the defensive line coach for Virginia.

Benkert's bio on ECU's athletcis website lists him as 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and describes him as "A talented and polished signal-caller whose arm strength perhaps already ranks among the best in the history of the Pirate program ." He was named the starter by McNeill at ECU heading into last season, but a knee injury forced Benkert to miss the entire 2015 season.

As a graduate transfer, Benkert will be immediately available for next season. He will also have two years of eligibility remaining.

Benkert will now be thrust into a quarterback competition in Charlottesville with incumbent Matt Johns and fellow transfer Connor Brewer.

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Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

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Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

The majority of highlights from Sean Taylor's career, whether he's walloping a helpless receiver or intercepting a pass from a quarterback foolish enough to test him, come from the days when he wore No. 21. However, some may forget that the gifted safety actually donned No. 36 as a rookie back in 2004, before transitioning to his more familiar digits in 2005. 

Nowadays, Taylor's 21 isn't officially retired, but's it's essentially untouchable. So for Redskins players who want to honor the talented defender — Ryan Clark is a recent example of one who did — they have to go about it in creative ways (Clark, for one, sported the famous number in practice).

Well, rookie Su'a Cravens, who was drafted by the franchise in the second round on Friday, is getting creative. On Sunday, the USC standout announced he was going to pay respect to the Burgundy and Gold legend in his own right by taking the field in the same No. 36 that Taylor debuted in. The news came around the time that it was revealed the versatile Cravens would be listed on the roster as a safety, another thing that he shares with the Pro-Bowler he idolizes.

Here are some tweets from the 20-year-old detailing his decision and what it means to him:

Showing love to Taylor is nothing new for the Los Angeles native, though. It was something he did in college as well:

Cravens has certainly wasted no time since getting every prospect's dream phone call in endearing himself to his new team's fans. He's already said that he's "so damn hyped to be a Redskin" and called the passion of Washington's supporters "unreal." But it's his latest choice that will really have people enthused, as understanding and acknowledging Taylor's talents are surefire ways to become a favorite in D.C.

It's clear Cravens knows his uniform selection means a lot to the city he'll be suiting up for. And it's clear he's ready for the expectations that'll come along with it. Sure, he's only been a Redskin for a few days, but Cravens is already making an impression.

MORE REDSKINS: GRADING THE 2016 DRAFT CLASS

Orpik suspended 3 games for Maatta hit

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Orpik suspended 3 games for Maatta hit

PITTSBURGH -- Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has been suspended three games for his shoulder-on-chin hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in Saturday night’s 2-1 playoff loss at Verizon Center, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday.

Orpik will miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the second-round playoff series, which resumes Monday night at Consol Energy Center.

“Brooks is a key part for us on the penalty kill but we finished second in the regular season with missing Brooks for 40 games,” Capitals left wing Daniel Winnik said before the suspension was announced.

“We’ve got guys that can fill his role. Who knows what’s going to happen for him, but I’m sure everyone is planning for him to not be in the lineup.”    

Maatta, who suffered an apparent concussion on the play, was being evaluated on Sunday. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he is unlikely to play on Monday.

Orpik’s hearing occurred at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, shortly after the Capitals arrived at their hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. It is the first suspension for Orpik since he was suspended three games in 2006 for checking Carolina’s Erik Cole from behind. He also received a one-game suspension in 2003.

"Orpy's an honest hockey player,” Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson said Sunday from the team’s hotel. “He plays tough and hard and honest, I think. You know, sometimes stuff happens, I guess."

RELATED: Penguins had a 'heightened desperation' in Game 2

Orpik, 35, has played in five of the Capitals’ eight playoff games and has no points, a minus-3 rating and six penalty minutes while averaging 20:15 of ice time a game, including 1:45 per game on the penalty kill. 

The Capitals have the option of replacing Orpik with 28-year-old veteran Mike Weber or 24-year-old Dmitry Orlov. Weber, who played in Game 6 against the Flyers in Round 1, seems more likely because of his ability to kill penalties. Orlov played in all 82 regular season games and the first seven games of the playoffs before he was made a healthy scratch in Game 2 against the Penguins. Orlov was on the ice for a goal by Penguins defneseman Ben Lovejoy midway through Game 1 and saw just one shift the rest of the game.

Taylor Chorney replaced Orlov in Game 2 and logged 10:10 of ice time, including 40 seconds on the penalty kill. In three playoff games Chorney has averaged 11:40 of ice time and is a minus-1 with two minor penalties.

If Maatta cannot play, the Penguins may choose between Justin Schultz and Derrick Pouliot. Schultz, 25, has just one game of NHL playoff experience, logging just 5:52 of ice time in Game 1 against the Rangers on April 13. Pouliot, 22, has just 56 games of NHL experience and has never played in a Stanley Cup playoff game.

"We have a couple of guys that are with us right now that are good players that have helped us win," Sullivan said. "The coaching staff is going to decide which guy we put in there that we think is the best to help us win."

Schultz played in the Pens’ final 18 games of the regular season and appears the most likely to replace Maatta.

"Justin's another puck mover," Sullivan said. "He's a guy that can help us get out of our end zone. He has a real good shot. He can join the rush. He can play on the power play. So, he has the ability to help us in a lot of areas.

"I really like his shooting ability. He has a great one-timer. He can help us in that regard, but once again, he's another guy that we could put in the lineup that's a real good puck mover that can make that first pass and help us get out of our end zone."

Whoever replaces Maatta, look for veteran Trevor Daley to be paired with Kris Letang on the Penguins’ top defensive unit.

Letang logged a game-high 34:02 of ice time in Game 1 and 35:22 in Game 2 and was back on the ice for the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday in nearby Cranberry Twp.

“He’s a freak,” Lovejoy said after Saturday night’s game. 

“We are so lucky to have a guy like him. He was able to absorb basically all of Olli’s minutes tonight. He was the best player on the ice, like he’s been since Christmas time.”

Caps left wing Daniel Winnik said the Caps made it too easy on Letang in Game 2, allowing him to break out of his own zone without enough physical consequence. That, Winnik said, must change in Game 3 Monday night.    

“When you have a chance to dump the puck in you want to try to put it in his corner,” Winnik said. “I don’t think that’s a secret throughout the NHL. You see it with a lot of top defensemen. We try to make them work as much as we can. Last night I don’t think we did a good job of that as a forward group. I didn’t think we spent enough time in the (offensive) zone. That’s pretty evident with the shots on net (35-24 in favor of Pittsburgh). If we do that he probably can’t play 35 minutes. We made it an easy game for him last night.”

MORE CAPITALS: WILLIAMS: 'WE WERE GETTING EMBARRASSED OUT THERE'