Before a jam-packed courtroom Tuesday, Jerry Sandusky, the convicted serial child sex abuser whose prosecution trained the national media spotlight on Central Pennsylvania and Penn State University, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in state prison.
Senior Judge John M. Cleland handed down the sentence after an hour of testimony from the lead prosecutor, Sandusky’s attorney, three of his victims and, for the first time in open court, Sandusky himself.
On Tuesday, a slimmed-down Sandusky stood still, in prison garb, and joined by his attorney as Cleland indicated he would be imposing a sentence not of centuries, but rather one that would concretely convey to the child molester that he would die behind bars.
As Cleland put it, the sentence would have the “unmistakable impact of saying that it will be for the rest of your life.”
Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period. Prosecutors alleged Sandusky used his position at the university and with his Second Mile charity to groom and molest his victims, showering them with gifts, and relying on their embarrassment to silence them for years.
The defense claimed the allegations started with one money-hungry liar and spiraled into a conspiracy aimed at earning windfall civil judgments against the university and the charity.
On Tuesday, lead prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan told Cleland that Sandusky used The Second Mile as a “victim factory.”
As part of his sentence, Sandusky was also ordered to pay more than $1,700 in restitution to a state victims compensation fund. He has been credited with 112 days served.
At the beginning of the day, Sandusky was designated a sexually violent predator under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law protocol. He did not present evidence to rebut that classification.
After about 80 minutes of court proceedings, attorneys for the victims as well as McGettigan called the ruling fair, just and watertight on appeal.
“I think [Cleland] showed a good, healthy deal of sympathy for the victims,” said Bala Cynwyd, Pa., attorney Michael Boni, who represents a man known as Victim 1. “I think he said the right things from the bench. I think he dispensed a wise sentence and I think when you look back over things, his decisions were designed to build a bulletproof conviction.”
Sandusky’s attorneys, meanwhile, renewed promises that Sandusky would appeal his judgment of sentence, the crux of which would revolve around the time — or lack of time — he had to construct his defense.
Speaking in front of the courthouse steps, Karl E. Rominger said sarcastically: You can get three continuances for a parking ticket but only one for Jerry Sandusky.
His co-counsel, lead defense attorney Joseph L. Amendola, pointed out that two former Penn State administrators — each facing perjury and failure to report charges related to the scandal — have been allowed 14 months to prepare for trial.
Sandusky’s defense to four dozen charges, Amendola said, received only four months.
The short day in court comes after Sandusky issued an 11th-hour audio statement to the media Monday night. In it, he restated the defense’s long-standing conspiracy theory and again denied allegations that have now, in all likelihood, put his days of freedom behind him.
In the Monday night statement, Sandusky implicated the victims, their families, their lawyers, the prosecution and the media. Though it served as the deep pockets that his accusers were apparently targeting, the former assistant coach said Penn State was now in on it too.
It is unclear if a bid of remorse would have granted Sandusky any leniency Tuesday. But what seemed clear, following the court proceeding, was that Sandusky’s statement certainly did not help his cause.
“With regard to that last statement, as can be said with all conspiracy theories, it flows from the undeniable to the unbelievable,” Cleland said to Sandusky.
Immediately before, Sandusky, clad in a red jumpsuit that said “CENTRE COUNTY” on the back, spoke for just over 10 minutes.
More than once he said, “I did not do these alleged disgusting acts,” but devoted the majority of his words to his supporters. He talked about his relatively brief stint in prison and his past experiences working with children in need of guidance.
The whole time, the coach insisted, he acted out of good will.
“They can treat me as a monster, but they can’t take away my heart,” Sandusky said.
He spent a significant amount of time talking about Dottie Sandusky, whom he called his only sexual partner, and an ally who has stuck with him into the fourth quarter.
Jerry Sandusky also read a statement from an anonymous supporter, for whom he appeared to have served as a mentor.
“You have impacted my life in so many ways, you were my lifeline,” Sandusky read. “So many times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t want to let you down.”
He used fewer words to discuss the victims, although at one point he mentioned still caring about them.
The young men, ranging from 18 to 28 years old, were among hundreds of onlookers filling the courtroom’s pews.
Three of them had addressed the court minutes before Sandusky. Their sentiments were largely unforgiving.
“The very kids you claimed to be trying to help were the very ones you victimized,” said a tall young man identified in court papers as Victim 6.
A person known as Victim 5 testified about recurring flashbacks of Sandusky’s naked body and years of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. He told Sandusky, over tears, that he had caused him to languish in social isolation and in guilt.
After testifying, he collapsed into the embrace of his family and sobbed with his head down.
A man known as Victim 4, looking at Sandusky in the eyes, said: “You decided to try to attack us as if we had done something wrong.”
McGettigan, who was the first to address Cleland, spoke in a bleak monotone for less than 10 minutes.
Discounting Sandusky’s charity work as a ploy to locate victims, McGettigan said Sandusky has “behaved for years in a manner that defied decency.”
Sandusky’s most recent statement, the prosecutor added, only further victimized them.
“His goal was not to help children,” McGettigan said. “It was to identify victims.”
“No deceit was too shameful, no act too repugnant,” he added.
As for Sandusky’s claim he did not have enough time to adequately defend himself?
“There is not enough time in the world to prove that lie,” McGettigan said.
Amendola made a brief address to the court emphasizing Sandusky’s reputation among supporters.
“We have a gentleman who, by many accounts of his neighbors, his friends, his co-workers, former football players, was a generous, kind, giving person who always only wanted to help.”
Amendola referred to Dottie Sandusky and the couple’s six adopted children, four of whom were in court Tuesday and five of whom maintain Jerry Sandusky “positively and favorably” affected their lives, Amendola said.
But there’s also Matt Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son who went public with allegations that he, too, was a victim of the convicted pedophile.
Five of Sandusky’s six kids supported him, Amendola said, referring to Matt Sandusky only as “one individual who spoke out at some point during the trial.”
Matt Sandusky was not in court Tuesday, but one of his attorneys called the sentence “very judicious,” while noting it does little to provide closure for the victims.
“Victims of sexual abuse will tell you closure is not attainable in the way that one might ordinarily think about it,” said Matt Casey, who is part of a legal team representing six of Jerry Sandusky’s accusers.
But the sentence was just, Casey said.
“Anybody who says Jerry Sandusky didn’t get a tough sentence has never seen what it’s like to spend a day in state prison,” Casey said.
Thomas R. Kline, who represents Victim 5, also viewed the sentence as equitable.
“The equation of sentence was correct,” Kline said. “The minimum of 30 years is tantamount to the 30 years Sandusky had to roam the Penn State campus before he was first flagged as a potential predator.”
The focus now shifts to the January trials of former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz, both facing failure to report child abuse and perjury charges.
Several men, meanwhile, have lodged civil suits against the university and The Second Mile.
No settlements have been reported so far.
As Boni, Victim 1′s attorney, said he told his client: “Chin up, and we’ll be in touch real soon to talk about other things.”