As my mother used to say, “He looked like death warmed over.” When Jerry Sandusky entered the courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., to hear his sentence, he looked like a completely different man.
Gone was the suit and tie I saw him wear each day of his child sex abuse trial. Gone was the bounce in his step and his rosy cheeks. Today, after nearly four months in solitary confinement, the convicted child sex predator looked as though he had lost at least 30 pounds. His red prison scrubs hung loosely from his body. His gait was wobbly, his posture stooped and his face a pasty grey. He blew a kiss to his wife in the far right front row and grimaced as he sat on the hard wooden chair at the defense table.
I was in the second row, to the left of Dottie Sandusky, four of the couple’s six adopted children and their supporters. They wept when they caught sight of Sandusky entering court. I thought since he looked so diminished he must have been spending time repenting for his crimes — 45 counts of deviant sexual abuse against 10 boys from his Second Mile charity. I was completely wrong.
Sandusky was passive as the judge officially proclaimed him “a violent sexual predator” under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law. The defense didn’t even put up a fight. The prosecutor, Joe McGettigan, read scathing victim impact statements from Victim No. 1 and the mother of Victim No. 9.
“Jerry Sandusky is the worst kind of pedophile,” the now-18-year-old victim wrote. “He smiles and smirked his way through these proceedings. There is no remorse or regret — only evil.” The mother’s statement lamented the loss of her son’s innocence. “Many nights I sit up and cry. Not only did you molest him,” she wrote. “You caused him a lifetime of pain ... all for your sexual gratification. How cruel of you!”
Three of the victims, now in their 20s, were determined to face their attacker in court.
A recent Bible college graduate, Victim No. 6, took a ragged deep breath as he told Sandusky: “You can choose to be in denial of what you’ve done, (but) I think you are only fooling yourself. It’s time to stop.” Sandusky, sitting just feet away, stared at the young man’s profile as he addressed the judge and showed absolutely no emotion.
A visibly shaken Victim No. 5 sniffled his way through his statement. “He called it horseplay (in the shower) ... but I am troubled by flashbacks of his naked body,” he said. He asked the judge to “take into account the tears, pain and private anguish I and others have endured.” No reaction from Sandusky.
The last to speak, Victim No. 4, had been involved with and pursued by the once popular Penn State football coach for years. When this survivor spoke to the court, he looked directly at Sandusky. “You did terrible things. I can’t tell you how you’ve screwed up my life,” he said emphatically. “You should be ashamed of yourself.” No reaction from the defense table, but then a quiet gasp from the gallery when the young man asked forgiveness from other Sandusky victims. “I ask those who were abused after me to forgive me for not coming out sooner.”
The judge had warned Sandusky, via his attorney, the afternoon before sentencing that while he had the right to make a statement, he did not have the right to bash the judicial system or the victims.
Within hours, Team Sandusky figured out a way around that by using the radio station at Penn State (no less!) to broadcast a three-minute audiotape of Sandusky from jail. Just who taped it and gave it to the station remains a mystery, but Sandusky was heard blasting prosecutors, investigators, media and Penn State officials who had conspired against him. He vilified the victims, calling them “disturbed” and attention-seekers.
Those incendiary comments were stripped from the statement he delivered before Judge John Cleland, but the message of Sandusky’s 15-minute soliloquy to the court was loud and clear. Everyone was lying. He was innocent.
I won’t bore you with all the details of Sandusky’s bizarre comments. You had to be there to truly understand how self-serving it was. He said his biggest pain was the separation from his wife, his family and his dog, Bo. His voice cracked when he spoke of seeing a brighter future ahead where he would be free to throw “thousands of kids in the air,” to see his dog lick their faces and play with balloons. He declared that his wife of 46 years had been his only sex partner in life — and that they had waited until after marriage.
It was the strangest statement I’ve ever seen a prisoner deliver, and I’ve been doing this for a long time. Especially when you realize that the prosecutor had nine more alleged victims ready to testify should a retrial have become necessary. Four other men have now come forward to say Sandusky molested them, too.
Cleland called Sandusky’s conspiracy theory “unbelievable” and sentenced him to spend no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison. The judge added that, for a man of 68, “that means for the rest of your life.”
I believe justice was done.