Sandusky accusers say smiles in photo masked their pain

Posted: June 14, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Eight smiling young faces surround Jerry Sandusky in a photo from the late 1990s shown to jurors Wednesday.

In a white shirt and tie, the coach stands hunched over their adolescent frames. His arms drape over the two closest to him, enveloping them in an affectionate embrace.

But by the end of the day Wednesday, four of those boys, now young men, had testified that the snapshot's beaming grins hid reservoirs of despair.

"I had sort of blocked out that part of my life," a 27-year-old identified in court filings as Victim 7 said after outlining years of purported abuse. "The more negative things I pushed to the back of my mind - like putting something in the attic and closing the door."

The photo - seized from Sandusky's home by state police last year - provided a road map for much of the testimony in the third day of the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach's child-sex abuse trial.

Prosecutors referred to it again and again as three accusers took the stand, their allegations coming at a fast clip. Each alleged Sandusky had molested them as youths in campus locker-room showers.

Other state witnesses, including the father of former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary and a janitor in the university's athletic facilities, recounted graphic accounts of sexual assaults allegedly seen by others.

But Wednesday also brought Sandusky's defense team its best opportunities so far in casting doubt on the stories of some of the former coach's accusers.

Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola, grilled Victim 7 about several instances of abuse mentioned Wednesday that he had never testified about before.

Those included moments in which Sandusky allegedly groped the boy in a shower, tried to cuddle with him during sleepovers, and stuck his hands down the then-11-year-old's pants and grabbed his genitals.

None of those allegations appear in the original 2011 grand jury report that outlines Victim 7's purported abuse. The man explained that he had remembered more details with the help of counselors in the month leading up to Sandusky's trial.

He maintained a relationship with Sandusky for 14 years after his abuse began, he said, because the coach offered him free tickets to Penn State football games.

"You never mentioned to anyone until now that Mr. Sandusky touched your penis?" Amendola asked as part of a refrain repeated over and over. "That came up only after you hired an attorney?"

Since Sandusky's arrest last year on 52 counts of child sexual abuse, Amendola has maintained that his client's accusers colluded in hopes of a securing a financial windfall through lawsuits after the criminal trial. The photo in which all four appeared proved that at least in their youth, they had known one another, Amendola said.

But Victim 7's lawyer, Andrew Shubin, balked at the defense's conspiracy theory after his client testified Wednesday. "He told the truth. He confronted Jerry after all these years," Shubin said.

"He spoke about things that took a very, very long time to process."

Still, Amendola continued to press the collusion claim in cross examinations throughout the day.

Questioning Victim 10 - a 25-year-old man who said Sandusky had performed oral sex on him on several occasions and often asked for sexual attention in return - the lawyer seized upon the man's failure to come forward until after Sandusky's initial arrest.

Victim 10 is one of two accusers prosecutors added to the Sandusky case a month after bringing their initial charges.

He told jurors his abuse began with a wrestling match in Sandusky's basement and culminated in a threat the former coach made months later when, as a 12-year-old, the alleged victim refused him oral sex.

"He told me that if I told anybody, I'd never see my family again," the man said. "Later, he apologized and said he didn't mean it. He told me he loved me."

But with other witnesses - such as the 23-year-old known as Victim 5 - Amendola hardly pressed at all.

The man acknowledged he was one of the boys in the prosecution photo and that he knew several others pictured. But though all were smiling in the snapshot, he described a cold reaction from Sandusky when he was 13 and dashed out of a shower after the coach placed the young boy's hands on his erect penis.

"I thought he was upset with me," Victim 5 told jurors. "He didn't talk to me afterward. No eye contact."

The defense's collusion claims did little to explain away testimony from two others who testified Wednesday.

Ron Petrosky, a Penn State janitor, recounted seeing Sandusky and a boy of about 12 coming out of a locker-room shower one night in 2000. Moments later, a coworker who had been cleaning inside emerged shaking.

"I just witnessed something that I'll never forget for the rest of my life," Petrosky recalled his colleague saying. "That man that just left - I saw him licking on that boy's privates."

Prosecutors have dubbed that boy Victim 8, but his identity remains a mystery.

James Calhoun, Petrosky's coworker who allegedly witnessed the incident, now suffers from dementia and was unavailable to testify about what he saw.

But Judge John M. Cleland allowed Petrosky to tell his recollections of the night despite defense objections that they amounted to hearsay.

Earlier in the day, John McQueary, father of Mike McQueary, corroborated a story jurors had heard a day earlier about a 2001 incident in which his son allegedly spotted Sandusky sodomizing a 10-year-old.

With only three more accusers expected to testify, prosecutors said they planned to wrap up their case by the end of this week.

Jurors were released early for the day but not before watching a now-infamous interview Sandusky gave to NBC's Bob Costas days after his November 2011 arrest.

Responding to a barrage of questions in the interview in a haggard monotone, Sandusky seemed to struggle with one in particular: "Are you sexually attracted to young boys?"

Sandusky repeated the question twice, seeming to mull it over, before finally answering.

"Sexually attracted? No. I enjoy young people. I enjoy being around them. No, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys."

As his recorded image played on the television monitor, Sandusky sat still, a finger to his ear, his eyes pointedly turned away.

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Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @jeremyrroebuck.

Inquirer staff writer Susan Snyder contributed to this article.

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