BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Judge John M. Cleland listened for days on end as the victims of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky described the horrors they experienced at the hand of a man they loved and trusted.
On Tuesday, as he sentenced that man to 30 to 60 years in prison, the judge spoke directly to those young men, telling them that “the tragedy of this crime is that it’s a story of betrayal.”
“The fact that you were assaulted is no cause for embarrassment or for shame,” the judge said. “As children you were the victims of a pedophile. His conduct was no fault of your own. As adults you have now come forward with an open account, and it is for your courage — and not for your assault — that you will be remembered and on which you must focus if you are to become whole and heal.”
Sandusky, 68, who was sentenced on 45 criminal counts, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, and reckless endangerment, had no reaction to the words or to the prison term.
“I’m not going to sentence you to centuries in prison — although the law would permit that,” Judge Cleland told him, adding that the term he imposed “has the unmistakable effect of saying you will spend the rest of your life in prison.”
Neither the prosecution nor the defense made any specific requests of the judge for how much time Sandusky should spend in prison.
“I ask for a sentence that reflects this defendant’s behavior, the harm he has caused, the laws he has broken, and the damage he has done across children’s lives,” said senior deputy attorney general Joseph McGettigan. “If the words existed to restore the innocence to these boys, or the childhood to the defiled, I would say them.”
In his request to the judge, defense attorney Joseph Amendola asked that the court balance its punishment of Sandusky with the good he did throughout his life.
“I just think it’s important there’s another side to this,” he said, characterizing his client as a “generous, kind, giving person who always only wanted to help people.”
“There’s another side to Mr. Sandusky.”
Judge Cleland agreed.
“I think it cannot be disputed that you have done much positive work,” the judge said. “So it is perhaps the ultimate tragedy of the situation that all of the qualities that made you so successful as a coach and community leader have continued to conceal the very vices which have led to your downfall. You abused the trust of those who trusted you.”
“So the crimes are not only what you did to their bodies, your crimes are also your assault to their psyches and to their souls and your assault to the sanctity and well-being of the larger community in which we all live.”
Three victims read statements to the court, describing the impact Sandusky’s crimes had on them.
They spoke about the loss of trust, the betrayal, and the trouble they have had trying to move past their pain.
“I’ve been left with deep, painful wounds that you caused and have been buried in the garden of my heart for years,” said the man identified as Victim No. 6, who was 11 years old when Sandusky showered with him in the Penn State locker rooms in 1998.
He quoted from the Bible and told the defendant that if he repented, God would forgive him.
The young man identified as Victim No. 4 told Sandusky he did not forgive him.
“I don’t know if I ever will forgive you,” he said.
He told Judge Cleland that he regretted not coming forward sooner so that other boys may have been spared.
Mr. McGettigan also read statements written by the man identified as victim No. 1 in the grand jury presentment and from the mother of victim No. 9.
“Jerry Sandusky humiliated me beyond description,” wrote victim No. 1. “I just wanted a childhood like anyone else. I’ve been looking over my shoulder for a long time.”
Victim No. 9’s mother spoke directly to Sandusky.
“You did it to satisfy your own sick and selfish needs for gratification,” she wrote.
She described the guilt she felt.
“I was not able to understand why he was so troubled,” she said of her son. “I thought it was my fault. I now question every decision I make as a parent. You’ve destroyed my family, and I cannot forgive you for that.
“There is no punishment sufficient for you.”
Sandusky did not call any witnesses on his own behalf, though he did speak for 15 minutes.
Standing before the court in a red, jail-issued jumpsuit, stamped with “Centre County” across the back, he appeared to be much thinner than he was at trial in June.
Much of Sandusky’s statement repeated one released Monday evening on Penn State student radio.
In that, he blamed his conviction on a vast conspiracy — ranging from the victims, to the prosecution, to the media.
“I did not do these alleged, disgusting acts,” Sandusky said. “There’s a lot left to learn if you choose to do that.”
He talked about spending his time in restricted housing at the Centre County Correctional Facility looking for a purpose for what has happened, suggesting that perhaps it means that some vulnerable children will not be victimized by raising awareness.
Although he offered no apology to the victims, Sandusky said that he continues to care for them.
And as has happened before, Sandusky referenced his dog, Bo, and made a football analogy, telling the court that he is now moving into the fourth quarter.
“You find out who’s committed, who will stand by you,” he said. “[Dottie, his wife] and others are standing strong. I like to believe they know me most.”
Sandusky kept his composure throughout his statement, becoming emotional only at the end, when he referenced his family’s continued support as he moves into the prison system.
He will stay in Centre County for 10 more days before being transferred to the State Correctional Institution Camp Hill for classification.
“Others can take my life and make me out as a monster,” Sandusky said. “They can’t take away my heart. In my heart, I know I didn’t do these alleged acts.”
Mr. Amendola has said that they will appeal — among the issues that will be raised is the fast track the trial followed.
Sandusky was arrested on Nov. 5, waived his preliminary hearing in mid-January and went to trial the second week in June. The charges against him involved 10 boys over a period of 15 years.
Mr. McGettigan, who praised the sentence, dismissed the allegations that there was a rush to trial, saying the defense should have spent more time preparing for trial and less time making rounds of the media.
The veteran prosecutor commented on Sandusky’s complete lack of remorse, calling what was released Monday a “masterpiece of banal, delusional, self-reverential,” statements “completely untethered from reality”
The judge referenced the statement by Sandusky released Monday night as well.
“Like all conspiracy theories, it flows from the undeniable to the unbelievable.”
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Paula Reed Ward is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Paula Reed Ward at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.