Intense day here on the road in Bellefonte, Pa., a lovely town hosting a trial that features hideous charges.
Today we had opening arguments in the Sandusky trial, and then the first witness, who spoke forcefully, unflinching, graphically, about serial sex abuse over many years. Here’s the story that Jenna Johnson and I put together (I assume the URL will update to the latest version shortly — we had to refile multiple times during the day under some trying conditions due to bad audio and strict prohibition of electronics in the courtroom). And here’s the scene-setter that ran this morning.
A couple of quick thoughts and maybe I can expand tomorrow when I have a moment to breathe: Witness 1 was a strong witness who never got rattled. This put a face, name, voice, to allegations that heretofore have been entirely on paper.
Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s lawyer, did not seem to have a lot of success in finding holes in the witness’s credibility. He raised the possibility that the witness has a history of lying and might seek money in a civil suit, but to my ear the witness explained himself well and it’s probably no accident that the prosecution led off with the guy referred to as Victim 4 in last fall’s grand jury presentment.
I was also struck by the fact that the witness said he and Sandusky never discussed the abusive incidents even though, according to the witness, they were frequent. It’s like the incidents were completely compartmentalized. They simply never mentioned them. The alleged incidents were almost always in the shower or sometimes in a hotel room. The witness said, “It was basically like whatever happened there never really happened.”
So why didn’t he report the abuse? Why didn’t he speak up sooner? Because, he said, he suddenly went from being a troubled kid in a broken home to someone with all these nice things in his life. He was suddenly popular with famous athletes, and hanging out on the sideline at Penn State games, or flying to Florida or Texas for bowl games, all on Sandusky’s dime. He didn’t want to lose all that.
And now he feels like he’s responsible, he said, for the alleged abuses that happened years later to other kids.
Yeah, a pretty intense day in little Bellefonte, Pa.