The first witness in the trial of the former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky said he had been sexually abused by Sandusky as a young teenager on campus and in hotels and that later the former sports organizer had sent him “creepy love letters.”
The witness, dubbed Victim No. 4 by prosecutors, said on Monday what began as “soap battles” in the shower escalated into inappropriate touching and oral sex. He said under cross-examination that he feels responsible for what happened to other alleged victims because he did not come forward earlier.
The man, now 28, was the first of eight alleged victims expected to testify during the trial, which began on Monday with opening statements.
Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he has denied. His arrest and the fallout shook one of the most storied US collegiate sports programs, leading to the departures of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno and the university president.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III opened Sandusky’s highly anticipated trial by telling jurors that the 68-year-old was a pedophile who took advantage of fatherless children or those with unstable home lives, plied them with gifts and sexually abused them for years.
Defense lawyer Joseph Amendola countered that some of the alleged victims had hired civil lawyers and had a financial interest in pursuing the criminal case.
Sandusky sat still as the first witness explained that he began showering with the former assistant coach in 1997, when he would have been about 13 years old. The man said he had met Sandusky through The Second Mile, the children’s charity the assistant coach had founded.
The witness spoke calmly and firmly when questioned by McGettigan, gesturing at times when asked to describe interactions with Sandusky.
“He would put his hand on my leg, basically like I was his girlfriend ... it freaked me out extremely bad,” the man said, extending his right arm out and pushing it back and forth.
Instances in the shower, the man testified, escalated to the point where either Sandusky maneuvered himself so his head would be near the boy’s genitals, or vice versa. The man testified that there were “a few occasions” where Sandusky ejaculated in the Penn State locker room showers.
Pictures of Sandusky and the then-boy were shown at times on a video screen. The man was asked to identify photos handed to him by McGettigan, including those with Penn State football players.
The man testified that Sandusky also took him to post-season showcase games. He also gave him several gifts, the man testified.
The witness said that, as he got older and after he got a girlfriend, he was “basically getting sick about what was happening to me.”
The man said he was reluctant to cooperate with the investigation into Sandusky.
Under cross-examination by Amendola, the man expressed regret for not coming forward earlier, saying: “I feel if I just said something back then ... I feel responsible for what happened to other victims.” He said he had spent years “burying this in the back of my head.”
During his opening statement, McGettigan told jurors he would prove that the abuse included oral and anal sex involving boys Sandusky met through The Second Mile and that it took place “not over days, not over weeks, not even over months, but in some cases over years.”