Sandusky Gets 30 to 60 Years for Sexual Abuse

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The New York Times

Published: October 9, 2012


Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State football assistant coach, after he was sentenced Tuesday for sexually abusing 10 boys.   Patrick Smith/Getty Images

BELLEFONTE, Pa. —  Jerry Sandusky stood in court Tuesday in his current uniform, the bright red jumpsuit of the Centre County jail. No longer was he in his Penn State coaching gear, nor in the suit and tie he wore at his trial in June. He was, in a sense, as powerless before his victims as they had once been before him. So he sat, forced to listen.

Jerry Sandusky professed his innocence in a 15-minute statement before he was sentenced.

“We both know exactly what happened,” said one of three victims who stood and spoke.

Another said: “I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory. Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them.”

“There is no punishment sufficient for you,” the mother of another victim wrote in a statement read by the lead prosecutor.

Another victim wrote: “There is no remorse. There is no acknowledgment of regret, only evil.”

The Penn State sexual abuse scandal does not have many chapters left. The former football coach Joe Paterno is dead, his name tainted by a formal investigative finding that he failed to respond to warnings of Mr. Sandusky’s crimes, even chose to cover them up. The university’s president, Graham B. Spanier, has been dismissed. The university’s football program has been sanctioned. The victims are seeking money, and Penn State has acknowledged it will have to pay.

But there was the matter of setting Mr. Sandusky’s term in prison for 45 counts of abuse, and Judge John M. Cleland addressed that business with emphatic scorn. He sentenced Mr. Sandusky to 30 to 60 years.

“I’m not going to sentence you to centuries,” Judge Cleland said to Sandusky. “It makes no sense for a 68-year-old man. This sentence will put you in prison for the rest of your life.”

Judge Cleland added that the case, which shook Penn State and called into question the role of major college sports on campus, was, in the end, “a story of betrayal.”

“You abused the trust of those who trusted you,” he said.

Mr. Sandusky entered the courtroom just before 9 a.m., looking thinner than he had at his trial. He took his seat and turned, smiled and waved to his wife, Dottie. He soon gave a rambling, 15-minute statement in court, in which he professed his innocence, as he had in a recorded statement broadcast on a Penn State radio station Monday night.

“I did not do these alleged disgusting acts,” he said Tuesday.

Mr. Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, all from disadvantaged homes. Mr. Sandusky used his connections to the Penn State football program, as well as his own charity for disadvantaged youths, the Second Mile, to identify potential victims, get close to them and then sexually violate them.

Mr. Sandusky’s remarks Tuesday at times resembled a pregame motivational speech, perhaps reflecting his years as a widely admired defensive assistant for Mr. Paterno. Casting himself in the role of an underdog fighting against a conspiracy to find him guilty, Mr. Sandusky mentioned that “Seabiscuit” was one of his favorite movies. He read aloud a letter from a boy who described Mr. Sandusky as a savior for his life and called him Touchdown Jerry. And he emphasized how he brought joy to children through activities like water balloon fights.

He also painted a picture of his life in prison. He used his small cell, with four concrete-block walls, as a metaphor. On his 46th wedding anniversary, he said, he rolled over in bed expecting his wife to be there. Instead, he literally hit the wall.

He became emotional when discussing how he had not been able to see his family. And when he declared that he and his family would continue to smile despite his conviction and sentencing “because that’s who we are,” his voice caught.

Others were not so moved.

“His statement today was a masterpiece in banal self-delusion, completely untethered from reality and without any acceptance of responsibility,” said Joseph E. McGettigan III, the lead prosecutor. “It was entirely self-focused, as if he, him, were the victim. It was, in short, ridiculous.”

Judge Cleland deemed Mr. Sandusky’s statement “unbelievable.”

Mr. Sandusky’s crimes have exacted a tremendous toll on Penn State. Within days after the indictment of Mr. Sandusky was made public in November 2011, Mr. Paterno, the football team’s longtime head coach and a patriarchal figure at the university, was fired. He had been alerted to at least one of Mr. Sandusky’s attacks on a boy. Two and a half months later, Mr. Paterno died of cancer at 85.

Meanwhile, the Penn State community found itself confronting the idea that it had placed the interests of its football team above concern for children at risk.

A seven-month investigation conducted by Louis J. Freeh, a former director of the F.B.I., determined that Penn State’s leaders — most prominently Mr. Spanier, Mr. Paterno, the former university vice president Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley — had disregarded the welfare of Sandusky’s victims.

Four of Sandusky’s victims are suing the university, as is Mike McQueary, a former assistant who testified to seeing what he thought was Mr. Sandusky raping a boy in a shower on Penn State’s campus in 2001. Mr. McQueary claims the university has mistreated him since Mr. Sandusky’s actions became public.

Mr. Curley, who is on leave, and Mr. Schultz, a former senior vice president, are scheduled to stand trial in January on charges of perjury and failing to report child sexual abuse, relating to the attack Mr. McQueary reported in 2001.

Mr. Sandusky’s lawyers said they would appeal his case, arguing most strenuously that they were not given enough time to prepare his defense before the trial.

One of them was asked Tuesday if Mr. Sandusky could have pleaded guilty for a lesser sentence.

“Jerry Sandusky has always maintained his innocence,” the lawyer Joseph Amendola said. “There could have been discussions, there might have been some deal that could have been worked out, but Jerry Sandusky wanted none of it.”
A version of this article appeared in print on October 10, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Sandusky Gets 30 to 60 Years For Sex Abuse.

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