STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The wife of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky says she “definitely” believes her husband is innocent despite being convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys and that the victims’ financial gain was at play.
Dottie Sandusky said in an interview broadcast Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show that “there was nothing that went on because I was here” in the couple’s small home in State College, where some of the victims reported being abused in the basement.
Although one accuser said his muffled screams went unheard by her upstairs, Sandusky heard nothing “because he didn’t scream,” she said after giving interviewer Matt Lauer a tour of the house. “It’s not a dungeon,” she noted of the basement.
She denied any suggestion that she was a “weak spouse” who enabled her husband and said she believes his accusers had been manipulated.
“I think it was, they were manipulated, and they saw money,” she said. “Once lawyers came into the case, they said there was money.”
In October, Penn State announced it was paying nearly $60 million to settle abuse claims by 26 young men. It’s not clear how many suits are still pending against the university following those settlements.
Sandusky said in the interview recorded Monday that she believed that her husband showered with children but “that’s the generation that Jerry grew up in.”
She insisted the encounters went no further: “I definitely believe him. Because if I didn’t believe him, when I testified at trial, I could have not said what I said. I would have had to tell the truth.”
Sandusky, who testified for about 40 minutes during her husband’s 2012 trial, also disputed a police investigator’s account of a statement by her husband following a 1998 complaint by a mother who said Jerry Sandusky had showered with her son.
He “would not say, `I wish I was dead,”’ Dottie Sandusky said.
She was joined in the interviewed by filmmaker John Ziegler, who is working on a documentary in defense of the late Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky’s longtime boss. Ziegler told The Associated Press on Wednesday that neither of them was paid for the interview, and that she agreed to talk to NBC to express her belief in her husband’s innocence and to demonstrate “that she isn’t delusional.”
Jerry Sandusky, who is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence, insists he is innocent and has a request pending that asks the state Supreme Court to consider his appeal.
Dottie Sandusky said she visits her husband once a week in his southwestern Pennsylvania prison but is allowed no physical contact.
“We talk about what’s been going on with the family, we talk about things with the case, how things have been going for him,” she said. Confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, he reads, meditates, writes and has a television, “which is a lifesaver for him,” she said.
She began to cry while saying the case has been “really rough” on her family.
“Some of our grandchildren are old enough that they know what’s been going on, and they’ve been told what’s been going on,” she said. “They know who their pop is and what he was.”
Many friends have stood by the couple, but lawyers have told others to keep their distance, she said.
Sandusky broke down again when asked what her husband misses most, finally replying, “Family meals, the fun times with the grandkids, playing ball, doing special things with friends.”
“He said, `I guess I took those too for granted,”’ she said.
But Sandusky said many people may find it hard to believe that her husband has maintained a positive attitude.
“Jerry’s still a happy person, and he smiles, and he tries to make people laugh, and he said, `I’m in the situation I’m in and I’m going to make the best I can out of it.”’