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Former federal prosecutor from Butler County hired to prepare last-ditch motion for Sandusky

| Saturday, July 5, 2014, 9:19 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Portrait of lawyer Alexander H. Lindsay Jr. in Butler office on Friday, June 27, 2014.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Portrait of lawyer Alexander H. Lindsay Jr. in The Lindsay Law Firm library in Butler on Friday, June 27, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Attorney Al Lindsay discusses a case at the Butler County Government Center Tuesday, July 1 2014.

HARRISBURG — Mention Jerry Sandusky, and you're likely to get an earful of vitriol.The same doesn't apply to the ex-coach's new attorney.

Those who know Al Lindsay Jr. say they have nothing but respect for him.

Lindsay, 68, of Sarver represents the former Penn State University assistant coach in a last-ditch bid for another day in state court.

In one of the most closely watched cases in Pennsylvania history, jurors convicted Sandusky in 2012 of molesting 10 boys over 15 years. He is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison.

Superior Court upheld his conviction. The state Supreme Court rejected Sandusky's request for an appeal.

Lindsay, who practices in Butler County, is preparing a post-conviction motion, a last resort available to state defendants. The measure allows defendants to argue they had ineffective counsel or that new evidence has come to light.

Lindsay said he wouldn't discuss how Sandusky came to hire him. What argument Lindsay will make in the motion is unclear. He said he is “uncomfortable” discussing details of the motion before he files it.

More than two years after Sandusky's conviction, the ex-coach's actions could still affect the prosecution of three former Penn State administrators accused of covering them up.

The case against ex-president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley is awaiting trial.

Prosecutors who have faced Lindsay in court don't expect the attention from the case to rattle him.

“One thing about Al Lindsay is, he treats every case the same,” said Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi.

Before Lindsay went into private practice in 1980, he built a reputation as a prosecutor with a flair for corruption cases. First as an assistant district attorney in Butler County and then as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania, Lindsay had a hand in a number of high-profile cases against local officials.

Lindsay started as a federal prosecutor under former U.S. Attorney Dick Thornburgh, who became Pennsylvania governor in 1979.

By 1978, when Robert Cindrich became U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, Lindsay was leading the district's anti-corruption team.

“Don't forget who you're prosecuting. You're not prosecuting some bank robber; you're taking on a public official, someone with resources,” Cindrich said of the work he did. “It requires a certain fearlessness.”

Lindsay excelled at persuading hesitant witnesses to come forward, colleagues said.

“Cases are not won in the courtroom. They're won in the living room,” Lindsay said.

“I still believe the best way to get someone to testify is to appeal to their idealism about our system, about our country.”

Mail fraud and racketeering cases involving public officials were his team's specialty, Lindsay said.

He personally secured convictions against local heavyweights such as John Torquato, who used his position as chairman of the Cambria County Democratic Party to demand kickbacks in exchange for state contracts.

Lindsay prosecuted Frank Clark, a former U.S. representative who pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and tax evasion.

Lindsay grew up on a farm in Sarver, a rural corner of Butler County. Cindrich believes this upbringing gave him a plainspoken manner that helps him connect with juries.

“He has this aspect of kind of a country boy,” Cindrich said.

“In fact, he's a highly educated, highly sophisticated lawyer.”

Years after Lindsay left life as a fed for private practice, that down-to-earth approach is still there.

Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger squared off with Lindsay during the 2008 trial of James Borchert, who confessed to the 2007 killing of his wife and her lover.

Goldinger won a conviction against Borchert, but he could tell Lindsay captured the jury's attention.

“It was kind of funny. He went into this southern drawl when he gave his closing argument and refers to himself as a country boy,” Goldinger said.

Gideon Bradshaw is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association. Reach him at bradshawgideon@gmail.com.

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