At last a hero has emerged in the just-beginning scandal of Penn State. His name is Joseph Amendola. He may be the worst defense attorney in history, to let his client Jerry Sandusky speak by phone Monday night to the best interviewer in the business, NBC’s Bob Costas. But he did, and even though it was by phone, it did not matter.
Thanks to Amendola’s idiocy, we actually could see the 67-year-old Sandusky. We could feel this alleged sexual predator, just like he apparently wooed his child victims with soft talk, attempting to do the same with us in proclaiming his innocence of butt-f---ing, getting blow jobs, c--- groping, and other depraved acts on eight different minor victims over a 15-year span.
(Once again I refuse and will continue to refuse to sanitize what he is accused of, 40 counts of serial sex abuse of minors, by the attorney general of Pennsylvania. We need to hear the graphic reality of what the former Penn State assistant coach allegedly did over and over and over, because this man, after his statements, is, in my mind, more of a monster than ever).
Forget Sandusky’s hemming and hawing for a moment as Costas grilled him as only Costas can, with incisive professionalism. What emerged, even by phone, was a pathological, perverted, delusional narcissist who somehow thought he could connive us into believing he had done nothing wrong. It was not simply the creepiest interview I have ever heard. His statements represented the height of arrogance, the sound of a man with an eerie and flat affect, as if he were talking about the Indian-summer weather, except for the fact that Costas repeatedly refused to let him off the hook.
If Sandusky were innocent of the charges against him, which I am 99.9 percent certain he is not, the last thing on his mind would be speaking to an interviewer. He would be in a dark room by himself not wanting to talk to anybody, not wanting to go outside because of the shame of the accusations against him. He would be mortified.
But Sandusky feels no shame about anything. He showed no remorse about anything with Costas, not even what has happened to Penn State in light of the allegations against him and the ousting of head football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier by the board of trustees last week. Nobody has acted nobly in the scandal, but it was Sandusky’s alleged crimes that started the school’s continuing descent into hell.
Far more disturbing and revealing was Sandusky’s lack of defiance, not even any outrage when Costas asked him if he was sexually attracted to young boys. An innocent man would have screamed “no” to the question. But Sandusky’s non-answer answer was utterly noncommittal, with no emotion, to the degree he might as well have said to Costas, “I’m glad you brought that up, Bob, because over the past few days I have concluded that sexual attraction is as much a philosophical issue as it is a physical one, so the issues of butt-f---ing and c---sucking and lots of naked shower romps with little boys have no practical application anyway.”
Based on the Pennsylvania grand-jury report, Sandusky was a cunning and manipulative predator of pure evil, like all sexual predators are. He drew in his helpless prey with gifts, whether it be a computer or a trip to the Alamo Bowl or $50 to buy marijuana. He dazzled them by showing off the football facilities of Penn State given that he was given free rein of them after his retirement as defensive coach in 1999. When one relationship of a sexual nature began to falter, he used the tools of guilt and desperation, calling one alleged victim 61 times.
He clearly saw himself as the master puppeteer, whether with the strings of gifts or guilt. But in speaking to Costas and attempting to duplicate his duplicity, he only further incriminated himself despite his self-perceived cleverness.
He admitted to contact with minors in showers in which he said he committed “horseplay,” repellent when it involves a man in his 50s and one alleged victim as young as 10. He said he may have touched a child’s leg in a nonsexual way, but the millions of us who listened had the exact same reaction—what is a grown man doing touching a child’s leg? He also said that Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary was lying in his grand-jury testimony that he was an eyewitness to Sandusky’s alleged rape of a 10-year-old in the showers of the Lash Football Building on March 1, 2002. The hideous sound that McQueary told the grand jury he heard before he went and looked into the showers—a “rhythmic, slapping sound”—apparently wasn’t that of Sandusky butt-f---ing a helpless 10-year-old with the boy’s arms reportedly against the shower wall; instead Sandusky told Costas that it was most likely the sound of just some good-natured towel snapping.
It sounds absurd given McQueary’s detailed account to the grand jury, in which he not only testified that he witnessed what happened, but also told two top Penn State administrators. The sickness of the explanation was further heightened by Amendola, who said publicly that Sandusky was only indulging in the type of behavior that jocks indulge in all the time. I have spent hundreds of hours in locker rooms and clubhouses at the high school, college, and pro level. I have never seen a coach shower with a player, much less a former assistant coach showering and playing towel-snap with somebody more than 40 years his junior.
None of it adds up. None of it is credible. It also seems clear based on additional comments by Amendola (the victims are in it only to collect money in civil damages) that the defense in this case, like the defense in all cases of sexual molestation of minors, will be to discredit the victims. The only problem with that defense is that there is an adult eyewitness to the most heinous charge.
But in State College and Centre County, which with each iteration of this indescribable scandal appear more insular and backward, virtually everybody involved seems to be lying, acting with ethical conflict, obfuscating, or conducting themselves with harmful stupidity.
The Associated Press reported last night that it had obtained an email sent by McQueary to a friend in which, contradicting the grand-jury account, he said he did stop what he saw and did report the matter to the police. That means McQueary now has a credibility issue; defense attorneys make their living off credibility issues. McQueary should have kept quiet, and why no one in charge of the prosecution hammered into McQueary that he was not to say a word to anyone in person or by email, even if that meant babysitting him 24 hours a day, is inexcusable. The case is that important.
The continuing mistakes made in this scandal from beginning to end, whether it’s Paterno abdicating his moral responsibility, or former president Spanier immediately coming to the defense of two administrators charged with perjury, or the judge who let Sandusky out on $100,000 nonsecured bail failing to disclose she was a volunteer for his organization the Second Mile, is beyond belief. And now the state attorney general’s office apparently did not sufficiently make its best witness understand how crucial it was to keep quiet at all costs.
Amendola was stupid in letting his client Jerry Sandusky speak. But if the prosecution and witnesses and Penn State officials keep up their own witlessness, a sexual predator (I’m sorry, legal department—an alleged sexual predator) may walk with far more freedom and arrogance than he does now.