Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, misses family meals and playing with his grandchildren, but has largely stayed upbeat and hopeful in prison, his wife said in a television interview.
Dottie Sandusky, 71, appearing on NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday defended her husband of 37 years when asked by host Matt Lauer if she still believes that he’s innocent.
“I definitely believe him,” she said. “He’s not guilty of these horrific crimes.”
She admitted that Sandusky would shower in the locker room with groups of boys, just like he would with their six adopted children.
“That’s the generation that Jerry grew up in,” she said. “They’d have soap battles or whatever.”
But she rejected allegations made at a trial that two of the boys were abused in the basement of the Sanduskys’ house. One of them had said he screamed for help. Dottie Sandusky said that’s impossible -- that she would have heard something.
“It is not a dungeon,” she said. “It is not what those kids said. You can scream and hear it from the second floor.”
The victims were manipulated by the hope of recovering monetary damages and their stories are pocketed with inconsistencies, she said. Last October, 26 victims reached a $60-million settlement with Penn State University.
And she fired back against assertions that she was the one who was manipulated.
“I am not a weak spouse,” she said. “I know who I am and I know who Jerry is.”
She tearfully described her weekly visit with him in prison, saying that he is always handcuffed and they are unable to touch. He spends 23 hours a day in his own cell, sleeping, thinking and watching TV. He gets brief breaks to go outside in the yard or to study in a law library. But despite the confinement, she said that she hasn’t seen a lot of changes in him.
He told her that he wrote to a friend and realized that he took for granted time with the family.
“Family meals, the fun times with the grandkids, playing ball, doing special things with friends ... our family had lots of picnics,” she offered as a list of things he missed.
Jerry Sandusky, 70, was sentenced in October 2012 to spend at least 30 in years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. A jury found him guilty of 45 counts related to child sex abuse, involving 10 boys over 15 years.
Sandusky had worked as an assistant coach from 1969 to 1999 and also ran a nonprofit to help children for many years, working from the university until 2011. He has appealed his conviction.
An NCAA investigation found that famed Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and other school officials covered up allegations against Sandusky. The NCAA fined Penn State a record $60 million and issued a four-year postseason ban for the football team.
Dottie Sandusky said she was speaking out because she wanted to share her belief about her husband’s innocence with a large audience. During the interview, she sat alongside John Ziegler, who is working on a documentary in defense of Paterno and Sandusky.
“I have spent two years without pay looking into this case,” he said. “I am positive that the truth has been lost here.”