A psychologist called by the defense in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse trial testified that the former Penn State assistant football coach suffers from a personality disorder that is characterized by a deep need for attention and may lead to inappropriate, sexually seductive behavior.
Elliot Atkins, an important defense witness, told jurors he spent six hours interviewing the 68-year-old Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period.
“Based on my evaluation of Mr. Sandusky, I have diagnosed a histrionic personality disorder,” Atkins said.
The psychologist’s testimony followed attempts by defense lawyers earlier in the day to discredit the prosecution’s case by suggesting investigators had coached testimony from one of the Sandusky’s alleged victims.
Sandusky faces 51 counts of child molestation after the prosecution dropped one charge of unlawful contact with minors on Monday. If convicted on all counts, the former defensive coordinator for Pennsylvania State University’s successful football program faces a sentence of more than 500 years in prison.
The case has focused renewed national attention on the issue of child sexual abuse and prompted the firing in November of Penn State President Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno died of lung cancer in January.
It was unclear whether Sandusky would testify as the trial entered its final stages.
Eight alleged victims, now men aged 18 to 28, testified for the prosecution last week, describing in often graphic detail being molested by Sandusky as boys, including oral and anal sex and shared showers. Two other alleged victims have never been identified.
Atkins told jurors that histrionic personality disorder is characterized by excessive emotionality and attention seeking, and symptoms include inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior.
The psychologist testified that letters Sandusky wrote to one of his accusers – which prosecutors described as love letters – were consistent with his analysis. Sandusky’s memoir, “Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story,” which was published in 2001, “absolutely confirmed my diagnosis,” Elliot said.