Ex-Penn State coach Sandusky could spend the rest of his life in prison
June 24, 2012 12:53 AM
Jerry Sandusky is led in handcuffs by Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau after being found guilty Friday night on 45 counts of sexual abuse at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.
By Jon Schmitz Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- After two days of deliberations and more than a week of disturbing and emotional testimony, a jury on Friday convicted former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual abuse of children.
Mr. Sandusky, 68, stood motionless as the foreman of the seven-woman, five-man jury read the verdict in Centre County Common Pleas Court. His wife, Dorothy, who testified in his defense, looked on from the front row of the gallery, seated with other family members.
The jury acquitted Mr. Sandusky on three counts.
Senior McKean County Common Pleas Judge John M. Cleland, assigned to preside in the case after all Centre County judges recused themselves, revoked Mr. Sandusky's bond and ordered him taken to the Centre County Jail pending sentencing, which he said would occur in about 90 days.
Many of the charges carry mandatory minimum sentences and Sandusky is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Almost immediately after the judge adjourned, loud cheers could be heard from a couple hundred people gathered outside the courthouse as word quickly spread that Mr. Sandusky had been convicted. The crowd included victim advocates and local residents with their children.
In court, Mr. Sandusky half-waved toward family as the sheriff led him away. Outside, he calmly walked to a sheriff's car with his hands cuffed in front of him.
Many in the crowd held up their smartphones to take pictures. As Mr. Sandusky was placed in the cruiser to be taken to jail, someone yelled at him to "rot in hell." Others hurled insults and he shook his head no in response.
The jury deliberated for about 20 hours over two days and the court announced that it had reached a verdict by 9:30 p.m. By then, Mr. Sandusky was on his way from his home to the courthouse with a police escort.
Mrs. Sandusky entered the packed courtroom at about 9:45 p.m., accompanied by family. The defendant entered five minutes later.
The jury foreman, juror number 4, announced the verdict count by count in a strong and decisive tone. A guilty verdict on the first count, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, carrying a maximum jail sentence of 20 years and a $25,000 fine, by itself ensured a long prison term for Mr. Sandusky. What followed sealed it, as the foreman pronounced him guilty on count after count.
The jury found Mr. Sandusky guilty on counts pertaining to all 10 of the boys he was accused of victimizing. One of the counts that he was cleared on was involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with regard to Victim 2, the unidentified boy he was accused of sodomizing in a Penn State locker room shower.
He was convicted of indecent assault, unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and child endangerment in connection with the incident, witnessed by then Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary in February 2001.
He was found not guilty of an indecent assault charge related to Victim 5, but found guilty of unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and child endangerment in connection with abuse that also occurred in the Penn State football facility in 2001.
The only other acquittal was on an indecent assault charge involving Victim 6 in 1998. The incident in the same football facility, the Lasch Building, yielded guilty verdicts for unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and child endangerment.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola, speaking with reporters in the courtroom after his client was led away, said "everyone has to understand because of where we started with this, this is not a surprise. This is what everyone expected. We did the best we could."
Mr. Amendola said Mr. Sandusky intended to testify, but that idea was abandoned after the prosecution informed the defense they would have called his adopted son, Matt Sandusky, as a rebuttal witness.
"We decided from a legal strategy position that to put Jerry on the stand and have Matt come in and testify against him would have absolutely destroyed any chance he had at acquittal."
Mr. Sandusky, he said, "still proclaims his innocence. He says he's innocent." On the issue of a possible appeal, Mr. Amendola said "we have a number of issues. We're going to look at it" after sentencing.
Mr. Amendola said the sentence that Mr. Sandusky receives likely will amount to a life sentence. The comment was greeted by a loud cheer.
Gov. Tom Corbett, who as state attorney general launched the investigation into Mr. Sandusky, released a statement after the verdict, thanking the jury for serving on "such a difficult case," as well as the victims.
"I also want to commend the multiple victims in this case who had the courage to come forward and testify in court, confronting Sandusky, and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of these reprehensible crimes,'' Mr. Corbett said in the statement.
"The agents and prosecutors of the Attorney General's Office, as well as the Pennsylvania State Police, also deserve a great deal of credit for today's verdict. They pursued every lead, gathering evidence from multiple victims, in order to bring this man to justice,'' Mr. Corbett said.
State Attorney General Linda Kelly, who came to Bellefonte for the verdict, spoke to the crowd in front of the courthouse, thanked the accusers who came forward and testified against Mr. Sandusky.
"This is an ongoing investigation. We can't speculate on future charges. We are continuing to look into this," she said.
She said she hoped the verdict "helps these victims heal ... and helps other victims of abuse to come forward."
She said: "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."
Members of the jury declined to comment on their verdict.
Penn State issued a statement that focused on what the university is doing and plans to do to protect victims.
"No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky, but we do hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing," the statement read. "Now that the jury has spoken, the University wants to continue that dialogue and do its part to help victims continue their path forward."
As the second day of deliberations began, the jury reheard the testimony of Mr. McQueary, who said he saw Mr. Sandusky sodomizing a boy in the shower of a locker room in February 2001, and Jonathan Dranov, a family friend who spoke with Mr. McQueary shortly after the incident.
Lawyers read the testimony from transcripts in open court. Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina took the witness stand and played the part of Mr. McQueary, and Mr. Amendola was cast in the role of Dr. Dranov. The readings concluded shortly after 11 a.m. and the jurors went back to continue the deliberating that began shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday, with an admonition from the judge that he was unlikely to agree to any further recitations of the testimony.
Mr. Sandusky's arrest in November led the Penn State trustees to fire former head coach Joe Paterno, saying he exhibited a lack of leadership after fielding a report from Mr. McQueary.
Paterno died Jan. 22, shortly after his family disclosed he was suffering from lung cancer.
His family also released a statement last night through its attorney.
"Although we understand the task of healing is just beginning, today's verdict is an important milestone. The community owes a measure of gratitude to the jurors for their diligent service. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families," the Paterno family statement said.
The Sandusky scandal also led to the ouster of university president Graham Spanier, and criminal charges against two university administrators for failing to properly report suspected child abuse and perjury.
The two administrators, athletic director Tim Curley and now-retired vice president Gary Schultz, are fighting the allegations and await trial.