Jerry Sandusky verdict: For some victims, guilty verdict means 'it's finally over'

By The Patriot-News
June 23, 2012

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (center) leaves the Centre County Courthouse in handcuffs after a jury found him guilty in his sex abuse trial on June 22, 2012 in Bellefonte, Penn.

BELLEFONTE- After the jury found Jerry Sandusky to be a serial pedophile, the mother of the young man known as Victim 6 embraced her son.

Despite the cheers outside the Centre County Courthouse that accompanied the announcement that Sandusky was headed to prison, quite probably for the rest of his life, she couldn't celebrate.

“Nobody wins,” she said. “We’ve all lost.”

But on Friday night, Sandusky lost, too.

After two days of deliberations, the jury found Sandusky guilty of 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse against 10 boys over 14 years.

The 68-year-old Sandusky left the courthouse in disgrace and handcuffs, headed to Centre County Prison. His maximum sentence would exceed more than four centuries.

Sandusky was once a hero. As defensive coordinator of Penn State’s football team, he helped the Nittany Lions to two national championships. He gained even more admiration when he formed a children’s charity, The Second Mile. Through much of his adult life, Sandusky reveled in the cheers of the crowd.

On Friday, the crowd of several hundred outside the courthouse gave rousing cheers when he was found guilty.

Sandusky’s attorney, Joe Amendola, pledged to appeal the verdict, but didn’t elaborate on the grounds for appeal. But he said his client is not frightened about the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.

“He’s not scared,” Amendola said. “He has said to himself based on the circumstances and the weight of the evidence against him, this was the likely outcome.”

Even Amendola acknowledged the uphill court battle. A few hours before the verdict was announced, the defense attorney said he would “probably die of a heart attack” if Sandusky would be acquitted of all charges. The verdict might mark a milestone in what is perhaps the biggest scandal ever in college sports.

But it’s not over yet.

Acting Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, who appeared at the Centre County Courthouse, made clear that prosecutors aren’t done.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Kelly said.

Other cases loom, and attention will now turn to the cases directly involving Penn State University.
Two former Penn State administrators — Tim Curley and Gary Schultz — are charged with lying to the grand jury that investigated the child sex abuse accusations against Jerry Sandusky.

Schultz, the former university vice president, and Curley, the athletic director on administrative leave, also are charged with failing to report allegations of child abuse. Both maintain their innocence.

A judge has scheduled a 1 p.m. July 11 hearing for Curley and Schultz.

‘An important milestone’

The jurors — seven women and five men — filed into the courtroom just before 10 p.m.. Most made every effort to avoid looking at the defense or prosecution tables.

A poker-faced Judge John M. Cleland reviewed the verdict slips, handed them back to the foreman, and Sandusky’s reign of abuse came to an end.

Sandusky looked resigned to his fate from the moment he entered court. He lowered his head slightly as the first few verdicts were issued. He then gathered himself and stared blankly through the rest of the proceeding.

Several feet away, his wife, Dottie, took the news in with a stern look on her face, betraying no emotion.

The news seemed too much for Sandusky’s son, Jeff, who had his head in his hands from the moment the first guilty was read.

Afterward, the small group of family members — also including son John and daughter Kara — declined comment.

Across the room, Victim 6, whose 1998 shower with Sandusky prompted a police investigation that did not result in charges at that time, could not contain his emotions at his delayed justice.

He was in tears, embracing prosecutors.

On Friday night, the jury didn’t spell out the precise turning points for the trial. The jury did not take questions on their deliberations.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact of the case.

The verdict capped an intense two-week trial that came three years and seven months after a Clinton County teen spoke up about sexual abuse that he said he privately endured for years.

That boy, now known as Victim 1, and his mother heard about the verdicts the way the rest of the world did — on television.

Victim 1, now 18 and a recent high school graduate, was on his way to work. “I called him, I cried, I’m happy. I’m very happy,” his mother said.

He told his mom, “Thank God,” she said.

That youth’s disclosure triggered the slowly evolving investigation that would lead to Sandusky’s arrest in November. It lit a powderkeg that unseated a national icon.

Joe Paterno, who led the Nittany Lions to more wins than any other major college football coach, was fired days after Sandusky’s indictment. The trustees said he failed to show sufficient leadership. Paterno died of lung cancer in January.

The Sandusky scandal also led to the ouster of then-Penn State President Graham Spanier, the indictment of two former administrators and unprecedented criticism and scrutiny of Penn State.
The Paterno family issued a statement late Friday night:

“Although we understand the task of healing is just beginning, today’s verdict is an important milestone. The community owes a measure of gratitude to the jurors for their diligent service. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families.”

‘Predatory pedophile’

Prosecutors hailed the jury’s decision as justice for the apparently still-undefined pool of victims that might be out there. Prosecutors said Sandusky used The Second Mile as a “victim factory.”

Regularly outside the courtroom this week, advocates for victims of childhood sexual abuse said it represented a landmark in their fight to help combat this scourge.

They said it showed victims that they will be believed if they come forward, even if on the surface, their abuser is a living legend.

Indeed, relying almost entirely on the often powerful accounts of the victims, lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan produced a compelling portrait of Sandusky as “the perfect serial predatory pedophile.”

Sandusky, he said, selected children from his youth charity’s popular summer camps and used his local fame and access to the Penn State football program to engage them.

Then, Sandusky tried to push boundaries as far as he could get with boys who — in most cases — were desperately seeking a father figure.

The charges stemmed from allegations of the abuse of 10 boys between 1995 and 2008.
Among the guilty verdicts were 10 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, each of which carries a minimum prison term of at least five years, or 10 years in cases that date after 2007.

The sentences, if added up, would put him in prison for more than 400 years. Given the likelihood that Cleland will run some of those sentences consecutively to mete out some degree of punishment for each victim, it is entirely possible that Sandusky is looking at a minimum prison term of at least 40 years.

After court recessed, Sandusky was immediately whisked to the county prison about 2½ miles out of town to be housed in a cell in its sex-offender unit.

County Sheriff Denny Nau acknowledged that security was bolstered slightly as Sandusky left the courthouse.

As overwhelming as the victory was, it was not a clean sweep for the prosecution.

Sandusky was acquitted of three counts, including the most serious charge stemming from one of the cases in which no victim had ever come forward.

Jurors acquitted Sandusky of the incident in 2001 in which former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary said he saw the former coach engaging in what he believed to be a sex act with a child at the school’s football locker rooms.

He was found guilty of lesser charges resulting from that incident.

Sandusky never testified in his own defense. Seeing Sandusky’s now-notorious interview with NBC’s Bob Costas, most legal experts concurred that keeping Sandusky off the stand was a smart move.

In the Costas interview, Sandusky’s halting responses to pointed questions sounded to many like a textbook case of a pedophile rationalizing years of secret behavior that had suddenly come to light.

The Costas interview figured greatly in the case, as prosecutors played audio clips of it to reinforce their case.

McGettigan reminded jurors of the interview in his closing argument Thursday, noting that Sandusky stumbled over what any normal person would instantly deny or find appalling.

‘It’s finally over’

Acting Centre County Prison Administrator Denise Elbell noted Friday that Sandusky will be locked in his cell — with a Bible, maybe one other book — pretty much around the clock, with limited access to the day room with a television.

When he is in that day room, Elbell said, all the other inmates in the unit will be in their cells.

It’s a security step the prison takes for all inmates committed for serious sex crimes. They’re usually in lockdown with very little movement throughout the facility, Elbell said.

Even his meals will be eaten in isolation. The solid doors in the sex offenders’ unit have pass-throughs for food, Elbell said.

It is a startling turn but fitting end, some said, for a man once held up as the kind of coach every parent would want their child to learn from.

He is now deemed a sexual predator who, despite several close escapes and free passes over the years, seemingly could not prevent his lust for young boys from turning him into the kind of monster capable of destroying a childhood.

And while prosecutors continue investigations, for the parent of one victim, there could be some satisfaction, and possibly even some closure.

“I think it’s finally over,” said Victim 1’s mother. “It’s been a long time. I think it’s finally over.”

Related topics: jerry sandusky, sandusky trial, sandusky verdict