Jerry Sandusky, on eve of sentencing, proclaims innocence
October 9, 2012 4:00 PM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
By Paula Reed Ward and Amy McConnell Schaarsmith Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On the eve of his sentencing on multiple child sex abuse convictions, former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky issued a radio address from prison in which he insisted he's innocent and painted himself as the victim of a conspiracy.
A young man who was a "veteran accuser and always sought attention" started everything, Mr. Sandusky said in a statement he read Monday on Penn State's student-run radio station, ComRadio. Then a "well-orchestrated effort of the media, investigators, the system, Penn State, psychologists, civil attorneys and other accusers" backed up the young man's false allegations, Mr. Sandusky said.
"They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they can treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart," he said. "In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts."
Perhaps he was falsely accused to help vulnerable children who might have been abused without all the publicity his case brought to the subject, Mr. Sandusky said in his statement to the radio station.
"I would cherish the opportunity to be a candle for others, as they have been a light for me," he said.
The radio station's student general manager, Mike Fliegelman, declined to comment on how the station obtained Mr. Sandusky's statement. Prosecutors could not be reached for comment.
Despite his repeated claims of innocence, Mr. Sandusky was convicted by a jury in June of 45 counts of child sex abuse. He will be sentenced today by McKean County Judge John M. Cleland to what even his defense attorneys expect will amount to a life sentence for the 68-year-old.
After the sentence is handed down, the direction of Mr. Sandusky's life in prison will be dictated largely by the first several weeks he spends in classification at the State Correctional Institution Camp Hill.
After undergoing a battery of tests and evaluations -- for everything from health requirements, to educational programming, to mental health needs, to security risk -- the former coach will be designated to a state prison facility.
The defense expects to call no witnesses other than Mr. Sandusky, who has prepared a statement of about 10 minutes, said attorney Karl Rominger. The court has already received a number of letters of support on Mr. Sandusky's behalf.
"I fully expect he'll assert his innocence and may want to take issue with the proceedings," he said.
The defense will not contest the prosecution's request to designate Mr. Sandusky as a sexually violent predator, Mr. Rominger said. The prosecution is expected to call a number of the victims who testified at trial to describe how the crimes have affected them.
Mr. Rominger estimated the hearing will conclude in about 90 minutes. It begins at 9 a.m. at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.
Mr. Sandusky faces a minimum sentence of at least 10 years in prison, with a maximum of well over 400 years, said Wes Oliver, a law professor at Duquesne University who has followed the case. (Several counts carry a minimum 10-year sentence, but the judge could order those served concurrently.)
"I think Cleland is going to want to send two messages: This is very serious, but we're being thoughtful in how we approach every part of this process."
Mr. Oliver does not expect Judge Cleland to grandstand by stacking the sentences for each individual count consecutively.
"It might be a century," he said. "I just don't think it will be four centuries.
"He'll want this to appear to be a very calibrated, measured sentence."
There can be unintended consequences of implementing sentences of hundreds of years, the professor said.
"This could have the effect of ratcheting up," Mr. Oliver said. "You've still got to leave room for the guys that are particularly worse than him."
Mr. Sandusky's defense believes the sentence he's facing is between 30 and 50 years.
"It's essentially a life sentence any which way you look at it," Mr. Rominger said.
Mr. Sandusky, who will be characterized as a sex offender, will not automatically be separated out from the general population based solely on the kinds of crimes for which he was convicted, said Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Instead, she said, sex offenders are mixed in with the populations at all 25 institutions for men in the state.
"There are no specific institutions or housing units for sex offenders," she said.
There are special needs units at all the prisons -- where inmates are held who are particularly vulnerable, whether for diminished capacity or increased risk.
"I don't think he'll necessarily be at risk for victimization," Mr. Oliver said. "He's a charismatic, famous guy -- particularly with the population he's going to be incarcerated with there. Maybe he'll find a niche."
Mr. Sandusky's age does not automatically entitle him to special treatment. Although Pennsylvania has specialized nursing home and skilled care at its prison at SCI-Laurel Highlands, he wouldn't necessarily be placed there unless medical needs dictate it.
Joseph Amendola, Mr. Sandusky's lead defense attorney, said his client would prefer to be in the general population when he gets to prison.
"Jerry has been in protective custody since June 22 at the Centre County Correctional Facility," Mr. Amendola said. "He remains in surprisingly good spirits and has been working on his appeal."
Mr. Sandusky will join approximately 6,700 other sex offenders within the state prison's population of 51,300 inmates, Ms. McNaughton said.