BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky proclaimed his innocence and railed against what he said were ineffective lawyers during an appeals hearing Friday that seeks a reversal of his 2012 conviction.
"I believe there are two sides to this story," the 72-year-old Sandusky said during testimony that lasted just less than an hour. "My side still hasn't been told."
It was the first time Sandusky has taken the stand, as he declined to testify during his 2012 trial at the same Centre County Courthouse where he was convicted on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in Greene State Prison, where he has been largely segregated from the prison's general population out of concerns for his safety.
At issue now is whether Sandusky's former lawyers provided inadequate counsel and whether Sandusky is entitled to a new trial. Sandusky's current defense attorney, Al Lindsay, argued that the preliminary hearing should not have been waived -- even if, in exchange, the prosecution agreed not to oppose setting Sandusky's bail at a manageable $250,000.
Lindsay also said Sandusky's past counsel was negligent in advising him not to testify, giving Sandusky just 15 minutes to prepare for his infamous 2011 NBC interview with Bob Costas and not filing appropriate motions for pursuing possible arguments.
"I didn't understand enough of what was happening, what was transpiring, what was going on," Sandusky testified Friday.
Lindsay said Friday's testimony was important because it gave Sandusky the opportunity to declare his innocence.
"That's the first time that Mr. Sandusky has been able to say in all of these things that have occurred that, 'I did not do these things,'" Lindsay said. "... How's that going to help him now? I think it's just important to Jerry that people know, 'I'm not admitting any of this.' It's important to Jerry."
State prosecutor Jennifer Peterson argued that Sandusky was well-aware what was at stake then and cannot change his mind after the fact. He did not testify because of the threat of his adopted son testifying against him, she said. Sandusky was also eager to get his story out to the media, she insisted, and he regretted speaking to NBC only when it backfired.
In that 2011 interview, Sandusky paused more than 15 seconds to answer whether he is attracted to young boys and, at one point, said, "I enjoy young people."
"The pregnant pause that will haunt us forever when he was asked if he was sexually attracted to boys," Sandusky's former lawyer Joe Amendola testified Friday. "I wanted to jump out of my chair. ... Never in the world did I anticipate that response."
The courtroom remained less than half-full before the lunch break. A cluster of Sandusky supporters sat together, including his wife and former Penn State assistant coach Dick Anderson, who offered Sandusky a thumbs-up on his way inside the courtroom as Sandusky smiled in their direction.
The hearing started just after 9:30 a.m., with Sandusky first taking the stand. It was his most significant -- and longest -- public comments since the NBC interview.
Sandusky became most irate when recalling how the defense's forensic psychologist, Elliot Atkins, painted him as unable to form adult relationships because of histrionic personality disorder.
"I assumed Dr. Atkins would be supporting me, would be giving documentation that I wasn't a pedophile, that I wasn't a preferential sex abuser," Sandusky said, his voice rising almost to the level of yelling, "that I wasn't the monster I was made out to be."
Sandusky, who spent decades at Penn State under coach Joe Paterno before his retirement in 1999, was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys. Eight testified against him, and at least 30 were involved in a civil settlement with Penn State.
Within the first few minutes of taking the stand, Sandusky was asked whether he committed any sex acts against children: "Absolutely not." He also denied ever having oral or anal sex with anyone. "That idea is totally foreign to me," he said.
Sandusky's hearing will continue on Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 in the Centre County Courthouse. Lindsay told ESPN that it's a "real possibility" that Sandusky testifies then.
Sandusky previously lost direct appeals to the state's Supreme and Superior courts. The Friday hearing falls under the state's Post-Conviction Relief Act and is confined to newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations and ineffective lawyering.
"If we don't get what we want here, we're going to go Superior Court and then the State Supreme Court, and then you eventually wind up in federal court," Lindsay said. "The rules are different in federal court, and they may be more favorable. But we really want to get a new trial here. We think we're entitled to it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.