PENNSYLVANIA – Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted Friday of sexually abusing young boys, completing the downfall of a onetime local hero in a scandal that shook a proud Pennsylvania community, a prominent American university and the world of major college football.
A jury in Centre County Court convicted Sandusky, 68, of sexually assaulting 10 boys, all of them children from disadvantaged homes whom Sandusky, using his access to the university’s vaunted football program, had befriended and then repeatedly violated. The jury, seven women and five men, more than half with ties to Penn State, returned a verdict on the second day of deliberation.
Sandusky stood stoically as the jury foreman read off the verdicts on the 48 counts against him. The foreman said guilty 45 times. Many of the charges, which include rape and sodomy, carry significant prison terms, and it seems likely that Sandusky will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Sandusky was taken into custody after the verdicts were read.
The case against Sandusky, even before his trial, had exacted an enormous toll. Joe Paterno, the university’s famed head coach who had been alerted to at least one of Sandusky’s attacks on a boy, was fired, went into a kind of exile and was dead of cancer within months. The university’s longtime president, Graham B. Spanier, was dismissed as well, and Penn State officials, alumni and students were forced to confront the possibility that the interests of big-time college sports had trumped concern for the welfare of vulnerable children.
Sandusky, who had been Paterno’s longtime defensive coordinator, had also founded a charity, the Second Mile, to work with troubled youths. In a trial that lasted two weeks, prosecutors asserted that Sandusky had used the charity as his private hunting ground, scouting for potential victims. He gave them gifts and money, invited them to his home, took them to Penn State football games, showered with them at the university’s football building and slept with them in hotel rooms on the road.
Eight men testified during the trial, offering graphic accounts of repeated assaults by Sandusky — on the Penn State campus, in hotel rooms and in the basement of Sandusky’s home. It was painful testimony, the men telling their horrifying stories in public for the first time. Some wept. Others said, with anger and relief both, that they wanted to move on at last.
In one of the case’s final startling chapters, this coming after the case had gone to the jury on Thursday, another man came forward to assert that Sandusky had molested him: it was one of Sandusky’s adopted children, Matt, who said he had offered to testify at the trial.
Sandusky’s lawyer, Joseph Amendola, said outside the courthouse that he and Sandusky’s wife “accepted the verdict,” but complained that he had been rushed in preparing a defense. “There are a lot of people sitting in jail who are innocent,” he said, prompting hooting and booing from the crowd that had gathered after the verdict.
The verdict against Sandusky will not bring an end to Penn State’s problems or reckonings. Lawsuits loom. At least two formal investigations, including one by a former director of the F.B.I. at the behest of the university’s board of trustees, are still under way. And two senior university officials — the athletic director and the administrator in charge of the campus police — face criminal charges that they failed to act when informed that Sandusky had assaulted a 10-year-old boy in a university shower in 2001 and then lied about that knowledge before a grand jury.
The university, in a statement issued after the verdict, said: “The legal process has spoken, and we have tremendous respect for the men who came forward to tell their stories publicly. 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.”
Linda Kelly, the Pennsylvania attorney general, said, “I think the case has been very significant with the problems associated with child sex abuse cases, and it’s raised a lot of awareness.”
Sandusky’s arrest, early on a Saturday last November, registered with seismic force in this insular corner of Pennsylvania known as Happy Valley. He was regarded as a local pillar, a former Penn State standout who had played for Paterno and then spent 30 years on the sideline with him building the Nittany Lions defense into “Linebacker U” and the football team into a national power.
People expressed shock that a man they knew as a committed and selfless coach, a prominent fund-raiser for charity and a gregarious father figure to scores of aspiring football players and ordinary children alike could be capable of such crimes. Many, at least initially, refused to believe it.
But things got worse for Penn State, as charges and revelations were laid out by the state attorney general’s office: Sandusky had been investigated by the campus police for possible sexual crimes against children as far back as 1998; in 2001, a graduate assistant in the football program, who was a former Penn State quarterback, had told Paterno and then other university officials that he had seen Sandusky sexually attacking a 10-year-old boy in the football building showers.
No one — not Paterno, not the graduate assistant, not the other university officials — ever reported the attack to the police. Sandusky, who had retired two years before but retained an office and privileges on campus, was merely told not to take boys onto campus any longer.
The university erupted with upset. Paterno’s reputation was badly tainted. The outsize importance of college sports was debated anew, but this time with a wrenching kind of soul-searching.
Sandusky’s own behavior in that first week only deepened the sense of bewilderment. He gave a strange, almost incriminating interview to Bob Costas of NBC. He seemed not to grasp the severity of the accusations. Amendola defiantly said his client was innocent, and began what would become a prolonged assault on the credibility of Sandusky’s accusers.
Soon, though, more accusers came forward. Sandusky’s house, where he lived for decades, raised a family and apparently carried out many of his attacks, was vandalized.
And Sandusky became a subject of national scorn and curiosity.
At one point in his interview with NBC, Sandusky was asked if he was sexually attracted to boys.
“Sexually attracted, you know, I, I enjoy young people,” Sandusky answered. “I, I love to be around them. No, I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.”
Joseph E. McGettigan III, the lead prosecutor, cited that reply in his closing argument on Thursday as evidence that Sandusky was a guilty man.
“I would think that the automatic response, if someone asks you if you’re a criminal, a pedophile, a child molester or anything along those lines would be: ‘You’re crazy. No. Are you nuts?’ ” McGettigan said.
In the end, Sandusky chose not to take the stand. Amendola said he made that decision after learning from prosectors that they would have called his son Matt to testify as a rebuttal witness if Sandusky testified. That, Amendola said Friday night, would have devastated Sandusky.
The repair work for Penn State, the university made clear Friday night, is far from complete.
The university said it planned to invite Sandusky’s victims to work with its officials to settle legal claims, stating, “The purpose of the program is simple — 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.”
from The New York Times
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