Jerry Sandusky trial: Day 4 begins, with two portraits emerging
Jerry Sandusky was to return Thursday to the Pennsylvania courtroom where his future is being weighed. Already, he’s sat in court for three days this week and heard himself described in sharply different ways.
Witnesses have described how Sandusky allegedly used gifts and declarations of love to lure boys from the charity he founded. Then, his accusers said, he would sexually abuse them, even threatening them not to disclose what had taken place.
But others have described the former Penn State assistant football coach in a way far more helpful to the defense. Sandusky was characterized at one point as having a “heart of gold” for performing his charitable works, and one person even described him as a saint for working with at-risk children.
The prosecution’s evidence phase enters its fourth day with three of the men accusing the former Penn State football coach of sexual abuse still waiting to testify.
Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. Five of his accusers have already taken the stand to graphically and often tearfully tell their tales. Adults have also testified about two of the cases in which the boys have yet to be identified.
Even Sandusky’s accusers credit him with giving them something they say they needed.
One accuser, identified in court documents as Victim 4, told of repeated sexual violations between 1996 and 2000, but added that he kept quiet for fear of losing the good things that Sandusky brought. The former coach took him to the sidelines at Penn State football games and introduced him to the players -- no small gift for a boy from a troubled home who lived with his grandmother. There were also tangible gifts, such as Penn State memorabilia.
“This was something good happening to me,” the witness said, according to reports from the courtroom. “I never had a father figure around. I was liking everything that I was getting,” he testified. “Other kids were jealous at the time.”
That’s why he never told anyone about what was happening -- he was afraid that it would all end, he said.
Victim 7 said that even after Sandusky gave him a bearhug in the shower, he never told anyone about the events that he testified made him feel uncomfortable.
“I didn’t want my parents to keep me from going to games,” he said. “I knew it didn’t feel right. It felt like something they would get mad about.”
The fear of loss turned out to be real, he said. In 1997, Sandusky stopped asking the accuser to stay over at his house and attend other activities. The witness testified that he thought he was dropped because he had done something wrong.
In addition to a potential loss of gifts, Victim 10 testified, there were outright threats. In a repeat of the other stories, the man told of meeting Sandusky in 1998 through the Second Mile, the charity the former coach founded for at-risk children. Eventually, the boy went to the basement of the coach’s home in State College, Pa., where he testified that he was forced to perform oral sex.
“He told me that if I ever told anyone that I’d never see my family again,” the accuser testified. Later, he said, Sandusky apologized. “He told me he didn’t mean it and that he loved me.”
The defense has worked to undermine the testimony. One of the accusers admitted he had served 23 months in state prison for robbery and had problems with alcohol and drugs. But the accuser said he had put all that behind him. “I’m married. I’m expecting” a child, he said.
The jury so far has heard only the prosecution’s case. The defense will present a different Sandusky.
Joseph Miller, a wrestling coach, told of the time in 2006 or 2007 that he walked in on Sandusky and Victim 1 lying on their sides in the weight room. Sandusky jumped up and said. “Hey, coach; just showing him some wrestling moves.”
“I quickly dismissed it from my mind,” the coach said on the stand this week in Bellefonte, Pa., not far from Sandusky’s home.
“Jerry would never do anything inappropriate. I had the utmost respect for Jerry,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘It’s Jerry Sandusky. He’s a saint. What he’s doing with these kids is fantastic.’”
Another accuser said that he went to authorities, who simply didn’t believe the tale of abuse.
“They said we needed to think about it and he has a heart of gold and he wouldn’t do something like that,” he testified. “So they didn’t believe me.”
It is still unknown whether Sandusky will take the stand, though his lawyers in the opening statements hinted he might. All the jury has heard from the former coach is an interview he did with sports journalist Bob Costas, which was played on Wednesday.
Costas asked Sandusky whether he was sexually attracted to young boys. Sandusky paused.
“Sexually attracted, no,” he answered. “I enjoy young people; I love to be around them. But I know I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.”
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