BELLEFONTE, Pa (Reuters) - Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky Tuesday abruptly waived his right to a preliminary hearing on sex abuse charges, meaning his case will go to trial.
No date has been set for a trial, which could be several months or even over a year away.
Sandusky, 67, has maintained his innocence on 52 charges of molesting 10 boys over more than a decade.
Tuesday's hearing had been expected to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Sandusky for trial.
"The decision is surprising," Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo said of Sandusky's waiving the hearing. Costanzo said that prosecutors had 11 witnesses ready to testify that Sandusky was a serial child sex abuser.
Sandusky's decision immediately prompted speculation that he may seek a deal to plead guilty in return for a reduced prison sentence.
But Costanzo said there is not talk of such a deal at this point.
"Sandusky is giving up rights. We're not giving up anything," Costanzo told reporters after the brief court session.
Moments before the hearing was scheduled to begin, Sandusky's lawyer Joe Amendola requested a meeting with the judge.
Audible gasps were heard when the announcement of the waiver was made in the courtroom in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, about ten miles from the Penn State campus in State College.
Sandusky, in a dark suit, was lead out of the back of the courthouse in handcuffs and paused to address reporters:
"We fully intend to put together the best possible defense that we can do, to stay the course, to fight for four quarters...We want the opportunity to present our side."
Sandusky was again released on $250,000 bail and the charges against him will be formally read at an arraignment on January 11, Judge Robert Scott said.