Jerry Sandusky, a former protege of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno who has become the face of child sex abuse in American sports, was convicted late Friday of 45 counts of sexually assaulting 10 boys he befriended through his charitable foundation for disadvantaged youths.
A jury of seven women and five men, most with ties to Penn State, reached the verdict at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., after an emotionally wrenching trial in which eight of the victims recounted their abuse.
Sandusky, 68, faces life in prison, though sentencing is weeks away. He had been under house arrest since last year but was placed in handcuffs and led from the court to jail after the verdict.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly portrayed Sandusky after the verdict as “a serial child predator who committed horrific acts upon his victims, causing lifelong and life-changing consequences for all of them.’’
A large crowd outside the courthouse cheered the outcome.
“Jerry indicated he was disappointed with the verdict,” said his lawyer, Joe Amendola. “But obviously he has to live with it.’’
The case has changed the landscape of child sexual abuse in sports, raising awareness as many other victims in unrelated cases across the country have come forward, saying they were inspired by the boys who stood up to Sandusky.
The jury, after deliberating for 21 hours, acquitted the former Penn State defensive coordinator of three counts related to the sexual abuse allegations. The 45 convictions, including 44 first-degree felonies, are punishable by 442 years in prison.
Amendola said before the verdict he would be shocked if Sandusky were acquitted.
“I’ll be the first one to tell you that if he did this, he should rot in jail,’’ he said in his closing appeal to the jury. “But what if he didn’t do it? His life is destroyed. Don’t be fooled.’’
Afterward, Amendola said he “expected the outcome because of the overwhelming amount of evidence against Jerry Sandusky.’’
“We were attempting to climb Mount Everest from the bottom of the mountain,” Amendola said. “Obviously, we didn’t make it.’’
Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan, in his closing appeal to the jury, said Sandusky had ravaged the lives of the boys and destroyed their childhood memories. He called on Sandusky to admit he abused the children and “give them back their souls.’’
Kelly cited the bravery of the victims who came forward.
“It was incredibly difficult for some of them to unearth long-buried memories of the shocking abuse they suffered,’’ she said. “Most of us cannot possibly fully comprehend what they endured testifying in that packed courtroom.
“This trial was not something they sought,” Kelly said, “but rather something that forced them to face the demons of their past and to reveal what happened to them and their childhood when they met Jerry Sandusky.’’
Midway through their deliberations, the jury asked to review testimony of Mike McQueary, a former Penn State assistant coach, that related to one of the most chilling assaults. Mike McQueary testified that in 2001 he was in the football locker room when he heard the sound of skin slapping against skin in the shower area. He testified that he then saw Sandusky in the shower, pressed against the back of a young boy who was braced against the shower wall.
McQueary said Sandusky was in “a very extreme sexual position.’’
In the first step of many that shamed Penn State, McQueary failed to report the incident to police, instead informing Paterno. The renowned coach notified athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, who took the allegations to Penn State president Graham Spanier.
None of them reported the incident to the police.
Paterno, who died in January of lung cancer, and Spanier were fired by Penn State’s board of trustees for their alleged lapses. Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury and are awaiting trial.
In other disturbing testimony, a Penn State janitor said another maintenance worker, now suffering from dementia, told him he saw Sandusky with another boy, Victim 8, in the shower room in 2000. The janitor said Sandusky “had the boy up against the shower wall, licking his private parts.’’
The victims testified that Sandusky’s abuse ranged from touching and kissing to oral sex and anal rape.
The jurors were not aware that Matt Sandusky, one of Sandusky’s six adopted children, offered to testify on the last day of the trial that his father had abused him as a child. Sandusky had met the boy through his charity, The Second Mile.
One of the victims said he protested while Sandusky was abusing him in the basement of the family home, prompting Sandusky, a large, muscular man, to chastise him.
“No one can hear you,” the boy said Sandusky told him.
McGettigan showed the jury pictures of the eight boys as children, saying they would be affected forever by Sandusky’s actions.
Sandusky allegedly plied the boys with gifts, including up-close access to the world of Penn State football. Prosecutors also presented “love letters” Sandusky sent to a number of his victims.
Sandusky’s lawyers cast the letters as a product of what they said was his histrionic personality disorder, a condition which can be characterized by inappropriately seductive actions in pursuit of attention and approval.
For his part, Amendola said of Sandusky in court, “All he wanted to do was help children.’’
A number of witnesses, including Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, testified on his behalf to no avail. Sandusky did not take the stand in his own defense.
Amendola said he made that decision after learning from prosecutors that they would have called his son Matt to testify as a rebuttal witness if Sandusky testified.
Dottie and Jerry Sandusky lived in Waltham in 1968 when he served as an assistant coach for the Boston University football team. None of the charges against him dated to that period.
Material from the Associated Press was included in this report. Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.