A top coach in one of the US’ prominent college football programs has been convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years in a case that shocked the nation.
Jerry Sandusky, a 68-year-old retired defensive coach of Pennsylvania State Univeristy’s football tema was found guilty on Friday of 45 out of 48 counts. He faces life in prison at sentencing.
Sandusky showed little emotion as the verdict was read, then the judge ordered him to be jailed while awaiting sentencing in about three months. Outside, he calmly walked to a sheriff’s car with his hands cuffed in front of him.
Eight young men testified in a central Pennsylvania courtroom about a range of abuse, from kissing and massages to groping, oral sex and anal rape. For two other alleged victims, prosecutors relied on testimony from a university janitor and then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary.
Sandusky’s arrest in November led the Penn State trustees to fire legendary head coach Joe Paterno, saying he exhibited a lack of leadership after fielding a report from McQueary about a sexual encounter between Sandusky and a boy of about 10. The scandal also led to the ouster of university president Graham Spanier and criminal charges against two university administrators for failing to properly report suspected child abuse and perjury.
The two administrators are fighting the allegations and await trial.
Penn State’s hallowed football team contests draw more than 100,000 people and the team’s success has raked in millions of dollars in television broadcast rights, merchandising and more.
The Penn State program also captured fans’ imaginations because it had a reputation of being honorable and avoiding the usual pitfalls of US college sports.
The allegations that Sandusky had for years molested young boys and that the college’s administration had hushed it up to protect the sports program shattered the university’s image.
Sandusky had repeatedly denied the allegations, and his defense suggested that his accusers had a financial motive to make up stories. His attorney also painted Sandusky as the victim of overzealous police investigators who coached the alleged victims into giving accusatory statements.
Ultimately, jurors believed the testimony that, in the words of lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III, Sandusky was a “predatory pedophile.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly thanked the accusers who testified, calling them “brave men.”
“One of the recurring themes in this case was, ‘Who would believe a kid?’ The answer is ‘We here in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, would believe a kid,” she added.
One accuser testified that Sandusky molested him in the locker-room showers and in hotels while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips to bowl games. Another spoke of forced oral sex and instances of rape in the basement of Sandusky’s home. Another, a foster child, said Sandusky warned that he would never see his family again if he ever told anyone what happened.
Just hours after the case went to jurors, lawyers for one of Sandusky’s six adopted children, Matt, said he had told authorities that his father abused him.
Matt Sandusky had been prepared to testify on behalf of prosecutors, the statement said. It did not go into details about his allegations.
Defense witnesses, including Jerry Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, described his philanthropic work with children over the years, and many spoke in positive terms about his reputation in the community. Prosecutors had portrayed those efforts as an effective means by which Sandusky could camouflage his molestation as he targeted boys who were the same age as participants in The Second Mile, a charity he founded in the 1970s for at-risk youth.