Moments after sexual-abuse charges against his father went to jury, Jerry Sandusky's adopted son came out and said he had been molested. Diane Dimond on the trial's gripping finale.
The prosecutor crossed the courtroom, stood behind Jerry Sandusky, and said of the 10 alleged sexual-abuse victims, “Their childhoods have been incinerated by this serial pedophile.”
A bewildered-looking Sandusky turned awkwardly in his chair and looked up at Joe McGettigan, whose gaze stayed locked on the jury.
“He knows he did it, you know he did it. Find him guilty of everything!” At that, McGettigan quickly took his seat, and the jury began deliberations at 1:12 p.m.
Because the jury is sequestered, they will not hear of the explosive revelation that came out just moments later: One of Sandusky's adopted sons has reportedly just revealed to prosecutors that he, too, was a sexual molestation victim of the former Penn State football coach. According to the Patriot-News, the newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for first reporting the Sandusky scandal, 33-year-old Matt Sandusky had agreed to testify if called, but apparently the judge denied the prosecution's last-minute request. The Daily Beast spoke to Matt's biological mother, Debra Rose Long, in the courtroom today, but she declined to comment on the record. Long has always said she believes the Sanduskys "stole" her son from her, officially adopting him when he turned 18.
A statement released by attorneys Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici reads in part: "During the trial, Matt Sandusky contacted us and requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky's abuse...This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt and he has asked us to convey his request that the media respect his privacy. There will be no further comment at this time."
McGettigan's closing argument came to a crescendo when McGettigan spoke of his days as a homicide prosecutor and the night he says he emptied his pockets at home and thought, I got one too many souls in my pocket—lives that are gone. Now acting as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s lead prosecutor on the Sandusky case, McGettigan told the jury, “I feel like I have ... 10 pieces of souls in my pocket.” He asked the jury, composed of seven women and five men, to find justice for the alleged victims.
The arguments ended seven days of often explicit testimony from young men who accused the former Penn State football coach of grooming them, groping them, and manipulating them into oral and anal sex acts. The activity took place, according to the accusers, in Penn State showers, a basement bedroom at the Sandusky home, and in various hotel rooms.
Some of the charges were dropped as the trial progressed, leaving the jury to come to an agreement on 48 charges including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault of a child, corruption of minors, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola went first. Striking a thoughtful pose, hands stuck in his pants pockets, he admitted to the jury that he had a daunting task.
“How could eight individuals and Mike McQueary and a janitor come in and say these things happened if they didn’t happen?” he asked with a shrug of his lean shoulders. He then launched into a presentation that could best be described as an “it-doesn’t make-sense” defense, punctuated often with the phrase, “Use your common sense, folks.”
Amendola asked the jurors to think about the timing of the charges, coming after one 15-year-old boy made allegations in 2008. Police then spent three years trying to find other victims before filing charges in November 2011.
“If they thought he was such a monster, why didn’t they arrest him [in 2008] and take him off the streets?” Amendola asked, nearly shouting although he stood just a few feet in front of the jury box.
“So, out of the blue, after all these years, when Jerry Sandusky’s in his mid-50s, he decides to become a child molester?” After a dramatic pause Amendola added, “Does that make any sense to anybody?”
The defense spent considerable time attempting to plant seeds of the doubts in the jury’s minds. The jury had heard from Cpl. Joseph Leiter and Cpl. Scott Rossman, state troopers and lead investigators on the Sandusky case, who both testified they never tell potential sex-abuse victims about what other suspected victims have told them. However, the defense had discovered a tape recording of the two officers doing exactly that with alleged victim No. 4. Amendola interpreted the troopers’ statements to the young man—in which they said “about nine victims” had already revealed oral sex and rape—as unethical coaching of a witness. He implied they were part of a conspiracy to bring down Sandusky, a famous Penn State coach.
“They were going to get him come hell or high water—even if they had to coach the witnesses!” Amendola shouted with dramatic wave of his arm. But he also admitted his client had “made dumb decisions, stupid decisions.”
The defense attorney also made much of the argument that as a Penn State coach working up to “17 hours a day during football season,” Sandusky wouldn’t have had time to rotate so many young boys in and out of his house.
Amendola slammed assistant Penn State coach Mike McQueary who testified about stumbling across Sandusky and a young boy engaged in what he believed was anal sex in a locker room shower in 2001.
“Mike McQueary didn’t do one thing to stop what he says he saw!” Amendola said. “Use your common sense. They presented no victim and...no emergency medical report...no one even called the police.”
And finally, Amendola pointed to the spectator section and spoke of all the plaintiffs' lawyers in the room, representing the alleged victims. “You have to decide if they are sitting in this courtroom without having been paid a penny, out of the goodness of their hearts.” And then the familiar refrain. “It just doesn’t make any sense, folks!”
The jury was afforded a 20-minute break to “clear their heads,” as Senior Judge John Cleland described it. Then it was the prosecution’s turn.
Joe McGettigan immediately set about to address some of the defense attorney’s points. First, the so-called Trooper Tape.
“The thing I heard on that that was most important was, ‘You are not alone,’” he said, referring to a frequent mantra of Corporal Leiter’s as he spoke to the young man who would come to be known as victim No. 4. “And, they didn’t let you hear the rest of that tape or you would have heard of all the things that man did to [name redacted.]”
As to the idea that there had been some conspiracy to get Sandusky, McGettigan scoffed. Any such scheme, he said, would have had to include too many people: state troopers; agents of the attorney general’s office; the office of Child and Youth Services; and members of the grand jury, “23 citizens just like yourself.” He added, motioning to his co-counsel: “Oh, yeah, and me and Mr. Fina here too.The idea collapses under its own weight.”
When childhood photos of eight alleged victims were projected on the courtroom’s big screen, members of the jury alternated their gaze from the monitor to the four grown men sitting in the front rows, now ages 18 to 28. McGettigan asked jurors to “have some sympathy and compassion” for the accusing witnesses, “as they tried to tell you about things they had long buried.”
In the jury box, No. 7, a Penn State student, No. 6, an alternate who recently replaced another who was taken ill, and juror No. 4 stared intently at the witnesses, many of whom were seated next to their mothers. One of the young men, a recent Bible College graduate, sat with his arms tightly wrapped around himself. The others jiggled their legs nervously as they listened to McGettigan.
At the defense table, Jerry Sandusky sat with his mouth opened slightly and his eyes blinking at a rapid pace. He too was listening closely.
“They will say, but look at all the good he’s done,” the prosecutor continued, referring to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity for disadvantaged youth. “Is that supposed to be some dispensation” to molest, he asked.
McGettigan used the phrase “predatory pedophile” several times in referring to the defendant and spoke of the phases a child molester goes through while cultivating a child. He then reminded jurors of what happened to each of the victims.
“The predatory pedophile thinks, I’ve done no wrong,” the attorney said, and pointing over at Sandusky he said in an incredulous tone, “He thinks these are relationships ... relationships that [others] wouldn’t understand. That’s what’s known as the denying pedophile.”
McGettigan defended Mike McQueary, saying, “Can you imagine the sheer shock he felt? He’s not perfect and may deserve some criticism,” McGettigan continued, “but he stepped up, took the oath, and told you what he saw.”
He saved any mention of the testimony of Mrs. Sandusky for the end.
“The one question that spoke volumes ... do you remember what it was?” he asked the jury, standing not three feet away from the jury box. “I asked her, Why would all these people lie? Remember her answer? ‘I don’t know,’” he said, quoting Dottie Sandusky. “I could have said, ‘You know. You know they’re not lying.’”
At the end of the closing arguments, the jury was sent out to begin deliberations, but the attorneys lingered. Both sides accepted congratulations from their respective camps, and then people began to disperse. McGettigan and his team lingered with the four young accusers. Moms hugged prosecution investigators, and McGettigan playfully hugged alleged victim No.9 and ruffled his hair. After shaking hands all around, he turned to the 18-year-old whose statements to police sparked the Sandusky investigation so many years ago. The boy with the haunted eyes shook hands with the prosecutor. Then they shared a nice long hug.