BELLEFONTE, Pa. – A jury convicted Jerry Sandusky of multiple charges of child sex abuse Friday, ending a two-week trial in which eight adults took the witness stand to declare that the former Penn State coach molested them when they were boys on the cusp of manhood.
So ended a criminal case that has shocked and horrified the Penn State community and, on a national level, cast light on the nature of pedophilia and the silence and denial that often accompany it.
A cheer went up from a large crowd outside the courthouse after people ran from the courtroom to announce the verdict. Inside, Sandusky showed no emotion, and didnt look at his wife as the verdict was delivered.
He always maintained his innocence, but prosecutors surrounded him with accusers, each of whom, at the end of his testimony, told the jury that he was not making any of this up. Their words persuaded the jurors, many of whom had direct ties to Penn State, that Sandusky had used the charity he founded for troubled kids to build relationships with boys he could molest.
The jury, which deliberated for 21 hours over two days, rejected the defense argument Sandusky was a good man targeted by a conspiracy among zealous police, prosecutors, the media and money-hungry civil litigators.
Sandusky had been under house arrest, spending his final days of semi-freedom at home with his wife, Dottie, who had testified in his support, and several of their children, according to Sanduskys attorney Joe Amendola. The lawyer said the family had been praying, and that the atmosphere had been funereal. Absent from the final gathering in the Sandusky home was Matt Sandusky, the adopted son who this week claimed via his newly retained attorneys that his father had abused him.
Sandusky was convicted of 45 of the 48 charges involving 10 boys. His convictions include first-degree felonies, among them involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Those carry a maximum of 20 years.
With no history of criminal activity, Sandusky would normally face less time on each charge under standard sentencing guidelines. But Judge John Cleland has some discretion and could find either mitigating or aggravating circumstances. He could sentence Sandusky to consecutive terms for each count, or have them run concurrently. Sandusky is 68 and under many scenarios would serve the rest of his life behind bars.
This case was extremely difficult because of the numbers, said Amendola, referring to the mountain of charges. It was like 10 different cases, he said. Amendola used one metaphor repeatedly: It was like climbing Mount Everest. And we had to climb it from the bottom.
Cleland revoked Sanduskys bail, sending him off to the Centre County Correctional Facility, which is just a couple of miles up the road from this town. Hell be kept in isolation, his attorney said. Hell be permitted to bring with him only a small number of newly purchased, unwrapped clothing items.
His attorney said Sandusky had been optimistic throughout the past seven months about his chances of being acquitted. Even on trial days featuring horrific testimony from weeping witnesses, Sandusky could be seen late in the day joking and laughing with a small group of friends who came daily to support him.
His wife, Dottie, attended Fridays morning session, intently listening to lawyers re-reading a key piece of testimony, that of Mike McQueary, who said he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy in a Penn State locker room. Dottie Sandusky hadnt heard the testimony when McQueary gave it since she was on the witness list and was not allowed in the room.
Sandusky was charged with six different types of crimes involving 10 children over the course of 15 years: involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; indecent assault; unlawful contact with minors; corruption of minors; endangering the welfare of children, and aggravated indecent assault.
Sanduskys lawyers gambled that he would have his best shot with a local jury that would be familiar with his acclaimed 32-year career as a coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions and with his work with The Second Mile, an organization for troubled kids that he founded in 1977 that became one of the states leading charities.
The jury included two Penn State professors, one retired; a longtime football season ticket holder; and a Penn State student who works in the athletic department. Five jurors had direct ties to Penn State.
The verdict brings to a conclusion one chapter in the greater tragedy that is the Sandusky story. Other criminal cases loom. Two Penn State officials, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, stand accused of perjury and failure to report child abuse. Civil lawsuits promise to last for years, with Penn State the big target. Also likely to be sued is The Second Mile.
And the grand jury investigation of Sandusky remains open. Two plaintiff lawyers, Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici, said this week that they represent other abuse victims who havent been publicly identified.