Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach who helped turn Penn State into a defensive powerhouse, and whose downfall left the program in tatters, will be sentenced on Tuesday for molesting 10 boys over 15 years. He faces the likelihood of spending the rest of his life in jail.
His lawyer, Joe Amendola, told the Associated Press that “it’s as certain as certain can be” that Sandusky will tell Judge John Cleland that he is innocent.
Convicted of 45 counts of sexually molesting the boys in various places, including his home and at the university’s football training facility, Sandusky, 68, could receive anywhere from 10 years in prison to as much as 400 years depending on how the Cleland decides.
Cleland will determine only the sentence; the place and the conditions of Sandusky’s incarceration will be up to state corrections officials.
The Sandusky trial touched a nerve nationally, coming at the merger of big-time college sports and what investigators led by former FBI director Louis Freeh found was the school’s need to protect its reputation. Iconic head football Coach Joe Paterno lost his post, and the school -- which faces a number of lawsuits from victims who were abused by Sandusky – was severely disciplined by national collegiate football authorities.
But at its heart, the case was about one an adult man who held power over disadvantaged boys and abused it. Sandusky was convicted of using his standing as a top football coach to groom his victims, sometimes gaining their trust with gifts of sports memorabilia. Then he sexually abused them. The boys were involved in a charity that Sandusky founded.
Both the prosecution and defense have filed briefs to argue their sides. Lawyers also met with Cleland on Monday to discuss the sentencing and the mechanics of the hearings.
Tuesday’s judicial proceeding are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Easter Time at the courthouse in Bellefonte, Penn., with a hearing to determine whether Sandusky should be classified as a sexually violent predator. An assessment board has recommended the designation, which requires special reporting procedures if a convict is released -- unlikely, given the amount of time Sandusky faces.
After the hearing, Sandusky is scheduled to be formally sentenced on the 45 counts. He will likely address the court.
While the total penalty could amount to 400 years in prison, Cleland could sentence Sandusky to much less.
At least half a dozen counts involve a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Cleland also has the option of deciding whether to sentence Sandusky to serve those sentences concurrently or consecutively. If the judge decides concurrently, that would make Sandusky’s sentence a minimum of 10 years in prison on those charges. If he decides for consecutive sentences, that raises the total to at least 60 years.
Even 10 years would mean Sandusky would be 78 at the earliest date of release. The remaining charges would add more time, again depending on how the judge structures the sentence.
Once sentenced, Sandusky would be turned over to state prison officials who would decide in which state prison to lodge him and under what conditions. Since his conviction in June, Sandusky has been in the Centre County Correctional Facility in Bellefonte, where he has spent his days reading and writing, preparing a statement for sentencing and working out twice a day, Amendola told the Associated Press.
“Jerry is a very likable guy — he gets along with everybody,” Amendola told the news service last week, as he worked with Sandusky to help get his affairs in order, including a power of attorney and updated will. “He’s a model inmate. He doesn’t cause problems; he’s sociable, he’s pleasant.”