BELLEFONTE, Pa.— One of Jerry Sandusky’s adopted sons is accusing his father of abuse, a news flash that raced through this rural village shortly after a jury began deliberations on 48 charges of child molestation leveled against the former Penn State assistant football coach.
Matt Sandusky, 33, a foster child before he was adopted by the Sanduskys when he was about 16, attended the trial early on and sat with his mother and family friends. But in recent days, he contacted lawyers who are representing two other accusers.
“During the trial, Matt Sandusky contacted us and requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse,” attorneys Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici said in a written statement that confirmed details of a report by NBC News. “At Matt’s request, we immediately arranged a meeting between him and the prosecutors and investigators. This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt.”
The jury, which deliberated in the courthouse Thursday evening and was sequestered in a hotel overnight, did not hear anything in court about the new accusation.
The Washington Post generally does not publish the names of victims of alleged sex crimes. The accusers in Jerry Sandusky’s trial sought to testify under pseudonyms but were required by the judge to use their real names. But reporters covering the trial generally did not use them.
The decision by Matt Sandusky to go public, however, was accompanied by an e-mail from his attorneys to dozens of journalists and news organizations, and his identity has now been widely reported.
The trial went to the jury Thursday after Sandusky’s attorney made a rousing closing argument that portrayed the former coach as a man pursued by overzealous investigators, prosecutors, news organizations and big-city lawyers hoping to cash in on the case.
“The system decided Mr. Sandusky was guilty and the system set out to convict him,” Joseph Amendola, Sandusky’s lead attorney, said in a robust defense of his client. “They were going to get him hell or high water, even if they had to coach witnesses!”
The prosecution alleges that Sandusky turned the charity that he founded, the Second Mile, into a kind of engine for pedophilia. Sandusky is accused of finding boys who needed father figures, cultivating intense relationships, acclimating the boys to physical touching and then ratcheting that behavior into ever more overt acts of sexual abuse.
“You saw the full spectrum of predatory pedophile behavior,” lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan said in his closing argument.
McGettigan’s presentation was low-key, folksy and rambling, but he ended with a flourish, striding to a spot directly behind Sandusky’s chair, close enough to touch the defendant, and declaring, “He molested, abused and hurt these children. . . . Give him the justice he deserves. Find him guilty of everything!”
The jury’s deliberations could be complicated by the sheer number of allegations. The day began with the judge noting that several of the charges had been dropped, for reasons he didn’t explain. That leaves 48 charges. They include “involuntary deviant sexual intercourse,” “corruption of minors” and “attempted indecent assault on a child under 16.”
The jurors may ponder the significance of letters written by Sandusky to the accuser known in court as Victim 4. The letters were briefly projected on a screen during the trial, and reporters were given a chance to study them more closely Thursday afternoon.
“I write because of the churning in my own stomach when you don’t care. I write because I still hope that there will be meaning to the time we have known each other,” Sandusky, who signed himself “Jer,” wrote in one letter.
In the most tortured letter, Sandusky wrote, “Something or things have come into [Victim 4’s] life that appear to have taken him over. It’s powerful, a cloud of smoke that has engulfed him, for Jer it has been a dark cloud.”
Amendola repeatedly told the jury that the prosecution’s scenario of Sandusky as a pedophile operating in plain sight “doesn’t make sense.”
“Jerry Sandusky took these kids everywhere. Is that what a pedophile does?” the attorney said. “Does he parade the kids around?”
Amendola appealed to local sensibilities as he addressed a jury in which many members have direct connections to Penn State. He alluded to the firing of Graham Spanier, the Penn State president, and Joe Paterno, the legendary coach who was Sandusky’s mentor and who died of complications from lung cancer two months after Sandusky was arrested.
“If he did this, he should rot in jail the rest of his life. But what if he didn’t do this?” Amendola said. “His life is destroyed. Not only his life. We have a fired university president. We have a dead coach.”
But McGettigan said the defense was imagining a vast conspiracy that would have had to master time travel to go back to the 1990s and early 2000s to invent allegations and accusations.
“The conspiracy has everything but Elvis in it,” joked former prosecutor Dennis McAndrews, who attended the trial Thursday and who worked alongside McGettigan years ago.
During the first morning break, the defendant’s wife, Dottie Sandusky, was overcome with emotion and wiped away tears. She did not speak to reporters, and it is unclear if she had heard about Matt Sandusky’s allegation.
Two friends bracketed her in the fourth row of the courtroom seats and put their arms around her shoulders. Together they closed their eyes, and the three of them appeared to be praying.
“She’s hangin’ in there. She’s got a lot of faith, but we’re praying with her,” said Kathy Sulkowski, a family friend who has known Jerry Sandusky for 45 years and has attended the trial daily.