Jerry Sandusky convicted of child sexual abuse
BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Closing a chapter in a scandal that shocked the nation and tarnished a prestigious university, a jury convicted Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual abuse Friday night, believing the graphic testimony of young men over a defense team that portrayed the celebrated former Penn State assistant football coach as devoted mentor.
Moments after the verdict was read in the courtroom, Sandusky, 68, rose from his seat with tears in his eyes, one of his lawyers said. When his bail of $250,000 was revoked, Sandusky gave a small wave to his family and was led away in handcuffs to a waiting sheriff’s car to be taken to the Centre County jail.
Jurors convicted Sandusky on all but three of 48 charges that he sexually abused 10 boys over a period of 15 years. He could be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison when he is sentenced in three months.
“From the beginning, we knew what we were facing, so the surprise would have been the opposite,” lead defense lawyer Joe Amendola told reporters on the steps of the courthouse, just miles away from the Penn State campus.
“Sandusky said nothing after the verdict was delivered,” said Amendola, who promised an appeal. “I think Jerry was prepared for this.”
Pennsylvania Atty. Gen. Linda Kelly thanked the accusers, calling them “brave men” who found it “incredibly difficult ... to unearth long-buried memories of the shocking abuse they suffered at the hands of this defendant.” She said she hoped the verdict “helps these victims heal … and helps other victims of abuse to come forward.”
“One of the recurring themes in this case was, ‘Who would believe a kid?’ The answer is ‘We here in Bellefonte, Pa., would believe a kid,’” she said outside the courthouse, at times interrupted by cheers from scores of bystanders.
The jurors did not speak to the media after the verdict, which was read after 10 p.m.
The defense had fought hard to keep the trial in Sandusky’s home area in the hope that his reputation as a sports figure and founder of the Second Mile, a charity for disadvantaged children, would help overcome the wave of negative publicity that forced the dismissal of iconic Penn State football Coach Joe Paterno and led to campus rioting. University President Graham Spanier also was forced out.
More than half of the jury had connections to the university, including a teacher, alumnus and a current student. But those ties did little to soften the blow of the verdict that came after more than 20 hours of deliberation over two days. As the jury foreman intoned the word guilty, Sandusky stood still between his lawyers. His wife, Dottie, the most important character witness called by the defense, sat in the front row with friends and relatives and looked at the floor.
The verdict does not mark the end of litigation.
Two other university officials are charged with failing to report the suspected abuse and with perjury related to their testimony before a grand jury investigating the scandal. The officials — athletic director Tim Curley, who is on leave, and retired Vice President Gary Schultz — await trial.
In addition to the criminal charges pending against the administrators, a slew of civil suits by the accusers are expected.
The heart of the prosecution case was the graphic and often grim testimony by eight men who said they had been abused as children by Sandusky, who met them through their participation in the Second Mile.
The trial began with opening statements on June 11, and prosecutors took slightly more than four days to present 21 witnesses to support their claim that Sandusky was a serial, predatory pedophile.
Accusers testified, sometimes in tearful detail, about their relationships with Sandusky. Most said they received gifts and special attention from him. Some said they saw him as the father they never had.
But what began as a mentoring relationship escalated into the physical abuse, the accusers testified.
Some said they were assaulted in the basement of the Sandusky home. Others described soapy showers that included forced acts of sodomy and oral sex.
The identities of two boys have never been ascertained; in those cases, two adults testified that they had witnessed abuse. Mike McQueary — a graduate assistant and former Penn State football player who became a coach at the university — brought the reports of abuse to Paterno, who in turn went to his superiors.
Though McQueary was a key witness at the trial, jurors rejected part of his testimony about the boy known as Victim 2 after hearing it read back earlier on Friday. McQueary told of a winter night in 2001 when he entered the university’s football facility and saw Sandusky with a naked boy, 10 or 12 years old, in the locker-room showers.
He described hearing the sounds of a sex act. McQueary said he slammed his locker door to let Sandusky know someone else was in the room.
The jury acquitted Sandusky of the top charge involving Victim 2, but convicted him on four other counts in that case, including indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor.
Sandusky’s attorneys presented his case in about three days, calling friends, neighbors and former sports colleagues to the stand. Led by Sandusky’s 69-year-old wife, the character witnesses insisted that they never saw Sandusky engage in any improper action with a young boy and that he was a good man.
The defense also questioned the quality of the investigations and why some of the witness accounts changed with the retelling of events over the years. The implications were that police had used their questioning to make the case look better, and that the accusers worked together to make their descriptions more graphic to help their expected future civil cases.
The defense also argued that Sandusky suffered from histrionic personality disorder, a condition that includes overly dramatic gestures that can be seen as seductive. The defense argued that the condition explained why Sandusky gave the boys gifts and in one case sent a love note to a child.
The prosecution countered that the gifts were intended to groom prospective victims.
The verdict marks the end of the first wave of legal problems at Penn State, which has been embroiled in turmoil since the charges were announced in November and the scandal ensnared Paterno.
Paterno became trapped between his supporters and the university, which found itself under increasing pressure to explain why it did not act more forcefully in dealing with reports of abuse.
For several nights, demonstrators at the school and its environs rioted in support of Paterno, a beloved figure who was the head coach for almost 46 years and who had been a campus fixture since 1950, when he became an assistant.
Paterno led the school’s rise through the college ranks and secured his place in the College Football Hall of Fame.
He also donated more than $4 million to the school and helped fund the library that bears the names of him and his wife.
On the night of Nov. 8, hundreds of students gathered in front of Paterno’s home to support the man known as JoePa. He offered a prayer for the victims, and then led his supporters in Penn State cheers. The next day he announced he would retire at the end of the season.
The trustees, however, voted that night to relieve Paterno of his coaching duties immediately. At the same meeting, Spanier resigned rather than be dismissed. Paterno died this year of cancer.
Hall, of the Allentown Morning Call, reported from Bellefonte and Muskal reported from Los Angeles.
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