After four days of intensely disturbing testimony, including unforgettable stories from eight accusers, the prosecution in the sex-abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky is poised to rest. But it will be the voice of the last alleged victim to testify—whose account has been by far the most chilling—that will likely ring in each juror’s ears as the panel leaves for a three-day weekend.
He is an 18-year-old young man who looks years younger, his appearance marred by a flesh-colored eye patch on his right eye. (He cited a recent eye injury as the reason.) Speaking in barely audible tones at times, and answering with a childlike “yeee-ah” to most of the prosecutors’ early questions, he told a harrowing story that seemed to hold the jury spellbound. (The Daily Beast has chosen not to reveal alleged victims’ names, though they are announced in court.)
Theirs was a three-year-long relationship, the young man told the court, encouraged by his mother as a way for him to have a male figure in his life. Staring at the floor with his one good eye, the witness said that physical, sexually-charged contact with Sandusky started almost immediately. At the time he weighed just 67 pounds. “He made me suck his penis,” he said with a big sigh.
“Did you want to do it?” Prosecutor Joe McGettigan asked in a gentle tone.
“No. [But] what was I gonna do? Look at him. He’s a big guy, way bigger than me.”
“How many times did this happen?” asked McGettigan.
“Every weekend,” he replied. “About 100, maybe 150 times.”
If gasping out loud in court were allowed, it likely would have happened in reaction to what the young man revealed next.
The prosecutor asked, “Did he do anything else to your body?”
“He put his penis in my butt,” the witness said bluntly. “He got real aggressive and he forced me into it. There was no fighting against it,” he said in a dejected tone. “Sometimes I’d scream, tell him to get off of me.”
It happened again, he said, “A few times … until I grew a pair of balls. I had enough of it. I called my mom to come pick me up ‘cause I had a cell phone, finally.” He was 15 when he refused to return to the Sandusky household.
The cross-examination of this witness—like that of many of the accusers—revealed even more potentially damaging allegations. Just why defense attorney Joe Amendola decided to pursue it with this most sympathetic witness is unclear.
“So, you say Mr. Sandusky had anal sex with you?” Amendola asked.
“Yes,” the young man replied.
“Did you ever need medical attention?” Amendola continued, as the hulking Sandusky sat just an arm's-length away.
“Did you ever bleed?” he pressed.
“Yes. But I just dealt with it. I have different ways of coping with things,” the witness explained, keeping his eyes on the floor, reluctant to look in Sandusky’s direction.
“You say you screamed?” the defense attorney asked. And the young man with the eye patch said,“Yeee-ah.”
“Was Mrs. Sandusky home?”
“Yes,” he answered. “But I think the basement is soundproof. It’s a big basement.”
Earlier in the day, the jury heard from an agent from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. He explained how the investigation into the once untouchable coach evolved. Agent Anthony Sassano revealed that Sandusky’s own autobiography—ironically called Touched—provided many photographic clues for detectives to follow. This last witness’s picture, however, was not included in the book. Police only learned of him after the stunning news about Sandusky’s arrest broke in November of 2011 and the boy’s mother called the police.
The prosecution has employed an effective rapid-fire style, bringing to the stand as many as six witnesses in a day. Consequently, they are believed now to be on the verge of resting when court resumes on Monday—an amazing feat after only four days of testimony in a trial with 10 separate victims and a 52-count indictment.
The impact of hearing so much highly charged, sexually oriented testimony in such a short time seems to have grabbed this jury by the throat. Normally, a jury group relaxes with each other after a couple of days. There are smiles, idle chit chat, and small courtesies evident as they enter and depart the courtroom. But these 12 jurors and four alternates appear different—engaged in the process to be sure, but decidedly solemn in their duty. There are no smiles, and they rarely take their eyes off the witness box to look over at the defendant.
This was the case when the jury heard from a witness who had just graduated from Bible studies school—and whose story appears to be the first instance reported to and recorded by the local police. He was 12 years old, he told the jury, when Sandusky called to take him for a workout on the Penn State campus. When he came home with wet hair and explained to his mother that he had taken a shower with Sandusky, she called Penn State University police to complain. The witness told the court that in the shower a naked Sandusky suddenly “grabbed me up from behind, hugged me hard, and kinda growled. He said, ‘I’m gonna squeeze your guts out!’” in a playful manner.
The handsome graduate paused a moment and grimaced. “I remember seeing his chest hair right next to my face. I thought, This is icky! But I didn’t want to make him mad.”
Each of the eight accusers at this trial has clearly struggled with their emotions when they reach the part of their story that involves sexual contact. This witness was no exception as he shifted his gaze to an invisible spot on the floor and kept it there as he spoke.
“He soaped up my body. It was escalating, the uncomfortableness of it.” Sandusky shampooed the boy’s hair, according to the witness, and then, “He put his hands on my waist and lifted me high up to the shower head to get the soap out of my hair. I closed my eyes so soap wouldn’t get in—” Another pause and the 25-year-old looked up at the prosecutor and said almost apologetically, “After that it just goes black. I don’t even remember being put down.”
(His testimony brought to mind a similar incident, related to the jury yesterday by a former Penn State janitor who told his now incapacitated co-worker’s story of seeing Sandusky in the fall of 2000 holding high a small boy in the shower and, to quote janitor Ron Petrosky, “sucking on his dick.”)
The jury also heard today from a former university police detective, Ron Schreffler, who investigated the 1998 complaint. He told of having the boy’s mother arrange two pretense meetings with Sandusky, luring him to her home to discuss what happened while officers hid in the bathroom and bedroom to listen in. When pressed to explain why her boy’s behavior had changed so much after the day they showered together, Sandusky broke down, according to Schreffler, and said to the mother, “I wish I could ask for forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”
At the defense table, Sandusky stared expressionless at the former cop. The jury seemed to pay close attention; several jurors were seen making a note of this testimony.
Like most of the other accusers, the 25-year-old sergeant in the Army National Guard who took the stand with a close-cropped military haircut had no father in his life. When Sandusky showed interest by taking him to football games and family functions, he told the jury, “It was awesome. I loved it. He was like a father to me.” But when alleged sexual contact began in the Penn State showers and the Sandusky’s basement bedroom, this witness said, he never said anything to anyone—not for three years. With his head hanging and in a whispered tone he said, “I was enjoying the other things I was getting too much. I loved him.” The sergeant said that Sandusky would sexually rub him down in the Penn State showers and fondle him into an erection in the basement.
“I knew I wasn’t supposed to have one from a man,” he said in an embarrassed tone. “It wasn’t natural for an older man to—” His voice trailed off. “He said I was like part of his extended family.” But when this witness began to act out in antisocial ways, his mother sent him off to foster care. “I was mad, raged, and hurt that [Sandusky] could just forget about me. I prayed that he would find me, get me out of there. Adopt me or something.”
After a three-year relationship, the witness said, he never heard from Sandusky again.