Jerry Sandusky on Trial

10.09.12

Sandusky Sentenced to 30 to 60 Years: Inside the Courtroom

Jerry Sandusky, the disgraced ex–Penn State coach, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for 45 counts of child abuse. In a tearful statement, he launched into a soliloquy about seeing himself free again playing with children, balloons, and dogs. Diane Dimond reports.

It was a very different Jerry Sandusky who entered the Centre County Courtroom to hear his sentence today. Gone was the smile, swagger, and "gee whiz" attitude seen during his child molestation trial. Today he appeared much thinner, ashen, stooped. His dark red prison issued pants and shirt hung loosely on his frame.

"I'm not going to sentence you to centuries in prison," Judge John Cleland announced in his deep baritone. "Although the law would allow that." And, after acknowledging that he was talking to a 68-year-old man, Judge Cleland announced his decision.

"I sentence you to not less than 30 years and not more than 60 years," Cleland said.  "That means for the rest of your life."

Dottie Sandusky, sitting in the front row surrounded by four of their adopted children put her left hand to her tear-stained cheek and closed her eyes. It could have been worse, a lot worse. Her shoulders sagged and her daughter's arm stayed glued to her mother's back.

As the judge went through every one of the 45 guilty counts and announced every sentence for each, Sandusky shifted his weight, leaning on the podium for support. He repeatedly tugged at the waist of his baggy pants to keep them up.

The session began with the prosecutor, Joe McGettigan, addressing the court with his own sort of impact statement designed to convince the judge to pass a triple- digit sentence. He spoke of Sandusky's "rampant degradation of children." He called Sandusky's Second Mile Charity "A victim factory" from which he chose his prey. "He was cruel beyond imagination," McGettigan said. "It went from touching, to washing, to grabbing, to anal penetration. He used them as his sexual property ... he damaged their families as well."

Defense Attorney Joe Amendola then rose to remind the judge of all the good things Sandusky had done for "thousands and thousands of kids" who came through his Second Mile organization. He recounted how the once popular football coach had raised money for other charities like the United Way and Easter Seals.

"We have a gentleman, who, by many accounts was a generous, kind, giving person who always only wanted to help people," Amendola said.

When three of the 10 witness/victims took to the podium to address the judge, the courtroom went absolutely still.

First was Victim No. 6, a recent graduate of Bible College. The lanky young man gulped in big deep breaths as he began to read from the paper in front of him.

"I've been left with deep painful wounds that are buried in the garden of my soul," he said in a timid voice that grew stronger as he spoke. "Worst of all has been the violation I felt. You can choose to be in denial of what you’ve done," he said to Sandusky without looking at him. "I think you are only fooling yourself. It’s time to stop."

Victim No. 5 held back tears and sniffed as he read. "I'm troubled by flashbacks of his naked body," he said. "I continue to be haunted by the incidence [with] anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and guilt. Sentencing him will never make me whole ... but he must pay for his crimes."

Victim No. 4, who was the leadoff witness at trial—no doubt because of his resolve—looked directly at Sandusky as he delivered his brief victim impact statement. It was to this 29-year-old man Sandusky wrote telling “love letters” that were read to the jury during trial.

"You were the person in my life that was supposed to be a role model. Instead you did terrible things ... and I can't tell you how you've screwed up my life," he said. "You should be ashamed of yourself. I do not forgive you. Because of you I trust no one. I asked those who were abused after me to forgive me for not coming out sooner."

The Daily Beast has learned that in the pre-sentencing meeting in the judge's chambers yesterday, Judge Cleland announced to the lawyers that while Sandusky had the right to address the court he would not be allowed to bash either the justice system or any of the victims.

The Daily Beast has learned that in the pre-sentencing meeting in the judge's chambers yesterday, Judge Cleland announced to the lawyers that while Sandusky had the right to address the court he would not be allowed to bash either the justice system or any of the victims.

Stooping at the podium and speaking in a voice made hoarse by emotion Sandusky declared, “I didn’t do these alleged disgusting acts. I hope for a brighter day.”

So Team Sandusky found a way around that. Just hours after that closed-door meeting the local Penn Station Radio station played a three and a half minute recorded statement from Sandusky. It is a mystery who might have recorded it and station co-news directors Caroline Goggin and Jared Abbott would say only that "a source with visiting privileges to the jail" gave them the tape.

On it Sandusky blamed his current situation on the first young boy to go to police with allegations of molestation back in 2008. He called him "a young man who was dramatic, a veteran accuser [who] always sought attention." He called him "a disturbed boy" and then spoke of the conspiracy that followed. "The media, investigators, the system, Penn State, psychologists, and other accusers," made up terrible stories. He declared for the listening audience that he has only had one sex partner in his life—his wife Dottie—and "that was after marriage," he said.

Sandusky repeated some of the taped comments when it was his turn to speak to the judge before sentencing. As he stood at the defense table with a fistful of papers, he gave his baggy red pants a tug to keep them up.

Stooping at the podium and speaking in a voice made hoarse by emotion, Sandusky declared, "I didn't do these alleged disgusting acts. I hope for a brighter day. Hopefully this was the worst loss of my life. Please do not close the book today."

He spoke in grandiose terms of wanting to be a "little candle" for others. He spoke of how his life has been difficult in prison and how he had to celebrate his 46th wedding anniversary behind bars—alone. He spoke of his tears and pain not being able to be with his family and his dog. At one point he quoted Thoreau: "It doesn't matter what you look at, it is what you see." And at that point he launched into a soliloquy about seeing himself free again playing with children, balloons, and dogs.

At the end of his 15-minute address Sandusky began to choke back tears as he spoke of his wife and family. He declared for his clan that, "We're going to smile because I’ve always smiled between the pain." His voice cracked with a sob when he added, "And we're going to laugh because that's the kind of people we are."

Sandusky's lawyer Karl Rominger said they will file an appeal with the court in 10 days.