Jerry Sandusky found guilty on nearly all counts of child sex abuse
By Joel Achenbach,
BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A jury convicted Jerry Sandusky of 45 charges of child sex abuse Friday, concluding a trial in which eight men took the witness stand to declare that the former Penn State coach molested them when they were boys.
So ended a criminal case that has shocked and horrified the Penn State community and, on a national level, cast light on the nature of pedophilia and the silence and denial that often accompany it.
At about 10 p.m., the foreman of the jury stood and read the verdicts, starting with count one, “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse” — “Guilty.”
Sandusky showed no reaction. One of his sons wept and shook his head as he sat behind his mother, Dottie. The Sanduskys had been prepared by their attorney for a guilty verdict after the jury took less than two days to work through a long and complicated list of charges.
After the verdict was read, the prosecutor asked for bail to be revoked. Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s attorney, argued that he be allowed to stay under house arrest. The judge ruled otherwise.
“The bail is revoked,” he said. “Mr. Sandusky, you are remanded to the custody of the Centre County sheriff.” Sandusky stood, did not appear to look at his family, and calmly walked through a doorway, accompanied by three officers. Shortly afterward, he exited the rear of the courthouse, this time handcuffed, and was loaded into a sheriff’s car. An onlooker shouted “Rot in hell!”
When the news of the verdict reached a throng gathered outside the courthouse, a huge cheer went up.
Sandusky always maintained his innocence, but prosecutors surrounded him with accusers, each of whom, at the end of his testimony, told the jury that he was not making any of this up. Their words persuaded the jurors, many of whom had direct ties to Penn State, that Sandusky had used the charity he founded for troubled children to cultivate relationships with boys he could molest.
The jury, which deliberated for 21 hours over two days, rejected the argument by Sandusky’s attorneys that their client was a good man targeted by a virtual conspiracy among zealous police, prosecutors, news organizations and money-hungry civil litigation lawyers.
Andrew Shubin, an attorney who represents two victims who testified, said he relayed the verdict to his clients. “They were relieved. They lost their breath when I told them,” he said.
Shubin’s law partner, Justine Andronici, said when she told “Victim 3,” a 25-year-old Iraq war vet, about the result, he said, “Thank God he’s in jail.”
Sandusky had spent his final days of semi-freedom at home with his wife, who had testified in his support, and several of their children, according to Amendola. Absent from that final gathering was Matt Sandusky, the adopted son who this week claimed that his father had abused him.
After the verdict was announced Friday, Amendola revealed to reporters that he was told last week that Matt Sandusky had made a statement to prosecutors about the alleged sexual abuse in the early 1990s. That, Amendola said, changed the defense strategy. Had Sandusky testified, the lawyer said, the prosecution would have put the adopted son on the stand as a rebuttal witness.
“Even though Jerry denied that he had ever sexually assaulted Matt, it would have been explosive,” Amendola said. “If Matt had walked into that courtroom, any chance that Jerry had, any small chance, would have gone out the window.”
Sandusky was convicted of 45 of the 48 charges involving 10 boys, two of whom were never identified by prosecutors.
His convictions include first-degree felonies, some with a maximum of 20 years in prison.With no prior history of criminal activity, Sandusky would normally face less time on each charge under standard sentencing guidelines. But Judge John Cleland has some discretion and could find either mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
Sandusky is 68 and under many scenarios would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
None of the jurors granted post-trial interviews. But many in the crowd outside were jubilant at the outcome.
“I’m glad I wasn’t on the jury because I would have said: ‘Fry him,’ ” said Connie Stoner, 63, a lifelong Bellefonte area resident.
She said that when news first came out about Sandusky’s crimes, morale in the region hit an all-time low.
“We hung our heads for a while. It was shameful,” she said. “But it’s over now, he’s guilty and now Happy Valley can be happy again.”
Sandusky’s arrest last fall was a bombshell at Penn State, leading to the firing of the school’s beloved head football coach, Joe Paterno, who was criticized for not doing enough after receiving a report of his assistant coach’s actions. Paterno died of lung cancer in January at age 85. School president Graham Spanier also was dismissed.
In a statement issued late Friday, the Paterno family said: “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.
Amendola said the case was “extremely difficult” because of the mountain of charges. After the verdict, he said of the Sandusky family, “They’re devastated, but they’ve BEEN devastated.”
The former coach, whom Cleland will sentence in about 90 days, was taken to the nearby Centre County Correctional Facility. Sandusky will be kept in isolation, his attorney said. He will be permitted to bring only a small number of newly purchased, unwrapped clothing items.
His attorney said Sandusky had been optimistic throughout the past seven months about his chances of being acquitted. Even on trial days featuring horrific testimony from weeping witnesses, Sandusky could be seen late in the day joking and laughing with a small group of friends who came daily to support him.
Sandusky was charged with six types of crimes involving 10 children over the course of 15 years: involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; indecent assault; unlawful contact with minors; corruption of minors; endangering the welfare of children; and aggravated indecent assault.
Sandusky’s attorneys gambled that he’d have his best shot with a local jury that would be familiar with his acclaimed 32-year career as a coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions and with his work with the Second Mile, an organization for troubled children that he founded in 1977 and that became one of Pennsylvania’s leading charities.
The jury included two Penn State professors, one retired; a football season-ticket holder for more than three decades; and a Penn State student who works in the athletic department. Five jurors had direct ties to Penn State.
The verdict brings to a conclusion one chapter in the greater tragedy that is the Sandusky story. Other criminal cases loom. Two Penn State officials, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, stand accused of perjury and failure to report child abuse. Civil lawsuits promise to last for years, with Penn State the big target. Also likely to be sued is the Second Mile.
And the grand jury investigation of Sandusky remains open.
Prosecutors say that the Second Mile became a tool for harvesting children for abuse. Sandusky, they said, was a classic predatory pedophile, a man who befriended the most vulnerable boys, the ones needing a father figure, who became appreciative that someone would bring them to football games and make them feel special.
The accusers who took the stand during the two-week trial proved devastating. Their accounts were not identical, and the defense attorneys were able to get some to admit that their stories had changed over time. But they were broadly corroborative of one another, down to such details as the way Sandusky would touch their legs as he drove them in his car.
Until the trial, the charges against Sandusky had been made in legal language and through the pseudonyms of “Victim 1,” “Victim 2” and so on. But the jury saw something more vivid: Photos of the boys at ages 12, 13, 14.
And then, one by one, they came into the courtroom, now fully grown. Some wept on the stand. The most damaging witness may have been the first to testify, “Victim 4,” who had become a virtual mascot for the Nittany Lions in the late 1990s.
(The Washington Post generally does not name alleged victims of sex crimes. In this case, most of the accusers wanted to testify under pseudonyms, but the judge said they had to use their real names on the stand. Attorneys for Matt Sandusky announced in a mass e-mail to the news media Thursday that he is alleging abuse by his father; his name was widely reported.)
Staff writer T. Rees Shapiro contributed to this report.