Painful chapter closes with Sandusky’s conviction for child sex abuse
BELLEFONTE, Pa. — With the same decision announced on count after count — guilty, guilty, guilty — Jerry Sandusky’s emphatic denials he had sexually abused boys for years became obsolete, closing a chapter in a saga that has gripped Penn State and the nation.
After a three-week trial featuring emotional and often graphic testimony from eight of the former Penn State assistant football coach’s victims, a 12-person jury late Friday night convicted him on 45 of 48 counts. There were convictions related to all 10 victims alleged by prosecutors, with the three not-guilty verdicts applying to three individuals.
The verdict prompted people in central Pennsylvania to breathe a sigh of relief, believing a man many called a “monster” would pay the price for his crimes and their impact on his victims, as well as the Penn State community.
A neighbor of Sandusky’s said many people connected with the region and the school needed this verdict in order to move on.
“We need some sort of realization; we need the word ‘guilty’ — that puts a label on what all this is,” Susan Strauss said Saturday.
Added Tom Bonerbo, a Penn State football fan for more than 40 years, “Hopefully, part of the healing process began with last night’s verdict.”
On Saturday, for the first full day in his 68 years, Sandusky was an inmate at the Centre County jail.
He never took the stand in his own defense — a decision, his lawyer Joe Amendola said after the verdict, was made because his adopted son Matt Sandusky was ready to testify as a rebuttal witness that he, too, had been sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky.
Jurors did hear from eight young men who testified that as boys, Sandusky forced them to engage in sexual acts in showers in Penn State’s athletics facilities, hotel rooms, the basement of his home and other places. The abuse spanned at least 15 years.
His conviction prompted the now grown man known as Victim 6 to break down in tears as he hugged prosecutors in the courtroom.
But, while satisfied, his mother did not claim victory.
“Nobody wins. We’ve all lost,” she said before hugging her son.
After Judge John Cleland revoked his bail Friday, Sandusky somberly left the courthouse in handcuffs, silently ducking into a police car as reporters asked him if he had anything to say to his victims.
He is on what it is commonly called suicide watch, one of his lawyers Karl Rominger told CNN. The move is a precaution and does not mean his client is suicidal, the lawyer insisted, saying the judge and warden just wanted “to put the precautions in place first and then evaluate later.”
Sandusky will be classified at Pennsylvania’s Camp Hill diagnostic facility before he is likely sent to a sex offender unit in the state prison system, Rominger said.
He should be sentenced in about 90 days, according to Cleland. If he gets more than two years, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections will determine the prison where Sandusky will serve his time.
After his verdict was announced, prosecutors Joe McGettigan and Frank Fina spent time answering questions from jurors about the victims and investigation, a source close to the prosecution said. McGettigan was touched by the jurors’ interest and engagement, according to the source.
One of the jurors, Joshua Harper, told NBC’s “Today” show that he and the four other men and seven women were “on the same page” as they considered the case and testimony from “very credible” victims.
“The fact that we saw this corroborating story between all of them, it was very convincing,” Harper said.
Rominger said he “could see tears running down” Sandusky’s face when the verdict was read. But Harper, like others in the courtroom, said he saw little evident reaction — which he thought was “just confirmation” the jury made the right call.
“Just the look on his face, no real emotion. Just kind of accepting, because he knew it was true,” the juror said.
Yet, his lawyers say, Sandusky is not ready to admit to his crimes and accept defeat. His defense team has already announced plans to appeal.
“If you win on one of the appeal issues, everything probably falls,” Amendola said. “All we have to do is convince an appellate court that one of the issues that we will raise is worthy of a reversal.”
Rominger pointed to “a lot of unique legal issues where (Judge Cleland) made rulings that could be overturned, not because they were, per se, wrong, but because the law in the area was so unclear.”
He also said “substantial constitutional questions” surrounded the prosecution’s ability to use an accuser’s claims based on hearsay alone. “All the convictions could come back on that ruling alone,” Rominger said.
Defense lawyers repeatedly failed in their attempts to postpone the trial. Rominger disclosed on his radio program Saturday that he and Amendola had asked to withdraw from the case before jury selection, saying they didn’t feel adequately prepared to defend Sandusky. The judge denied the request, said Rominger, who added he never mentioned the issue during the trial because of a gag order in place.
Beyond the appeals process, Sandusky could be on trial again to face more charges — perhaps tied to claims made by his adopted son Matt or related to alleged sexual abuse that took place outside Centre County, including in hotel rooms in Texas and Florida where he had taken accusers to watch Penn State bowl games.
And the fallout from the scandal is also far from over for Penn State itself.
Two of its former administrators — Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley — are awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failing to report abuse. Prosecutors say they did not notify police after former graduate football assistant Mike McQueary informed them he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy in a university shower in 2002.
Authorities didn’t learn about that eyewitness account until years later, and the resulting scandal led to the ouster of iconic head football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier. In addition to the testimony of McQueary and a janitor at the school, several victims said that Sandusky repeatedly sexually abused them on Penn State property.
In a statement released after Friday night’s verdict, Penn State signaled it wants to seek resolution — including some sort of financial settlement — with the victims.
“The university wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims’ concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the university,” the school said.
The Sandusky case has infuriated the Penn State community, not just because of the heinous nature of the crimes, but also because some feel the scandal has unfairly defined the university, students say.
“It’s a relief. Now we can begin to heal,” Penn State senior Karisa Maxwell said of the verdict. “I’ve never seen Jerry Sandusky. He has no affect on my education. For people to say he’s Penn State is disgusting. That’s not the case.”
Credit: CNN. CNN’s Laura Dolan, Susan Candiotti, Elisa Roupenian, Ross Levitt, Jason Carroll, Dana Garrett, Laura Dolan, Holly Yan, Kiran Khalid and Anderson Cooper and In Session’s Michael Christian and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.