Jerry Sandusky found guilty on 45 counts, led from court in handcuffs

Posted: June 24, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - A Centre County jury found Jerry Sandusky guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse late Friday night, closing the first chapter in a scandal that tarnished a university and led to the ouster of four of its top administrators.

He was acquitted on three counts.

The panel of seven women and five men returned the verdict about 10 p.m., after about 21 hours of deliberations over two days. The former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach now faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison after his sentencing hearing, which will be in about 90 days.

As the verdict was announced, Sandusky stood almost casually, his left hand stuffed into his pants pocket. It took 12 minutes to read the verdicts on all the counts.

The courtroom was silent, but for the sound of one woman weeping.

When the jury concluded reading its verdicts, Sandusky sat down heavily into his chair at the defense table.

The prosecution moved immediately to revoke his bail.

Amendola argued that Sandusky was no flight risk. The judge quickly granted the prosecution request.

At 10:10 p.m., Sandusky was remanded to the county sheriff to be escorted to the Centre County Correctional Facility. As Sandusky was escorted out by deputies, he glanced at his wife but said nothing. As he emerged outside in handcuffs, a bystander yelled, "Rot in hell!"

Almost immediately after the judge adjourned, loud cheers could be heard from at least a couple of hundred people outside the courthouse as word quickly spread that Sandusky had been convicted. The group included victim advocates and local residents with their kids. Many held up their smartphones to take pictures as people filtered out of the building.

Court staff said no jurors were willing to speak to the media about the case.

Over the course of his eight-day trial, jurors heard from eight accusers who said Sandusky, 68, molested them as boys over a period from the mid-1990s until 2009.

Each said they met Sandusky through the Second Mile, the charity for underprivileged youth he founded in 1977. Many shared similar stories of the former coach groping their naked bodies in football locker-room showers or raping them in the basement of his State College home.

Jurors also heard of assaults on two other victims whom prosecutors never identified. The most publicized incident was described by former Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary. He testified last week that he walked in on Sandusky in 2001 sodomizing a boy in a locker room shower.

Defense attorneys attempted to counter those claims by alleging that their client's accusers had made up their accounts of abuse in hopes of eventual windfalls from after-trial civil suits against Penn State.

The family of revered Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who died in January and with whom Sandusky long worked, said in a statement Friday night: "Although we understand the task of healing is just beginning, today's verdict is an important milestone. The community owes a measure of gratitude to the jurors for their diligent service. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families."

Moments after the verdict was announced and Sandusky was taken away, a red-eyed Amendola knelt beside Dottie Sandusky and other family members seated in the front row of the courtroom.

"This is not unexpected," he told her as other family members pressed close. "I don't know what else we could have done."

Dottie Sandusky responded to him with a shaking voice.

A family member said there would be no immediate comment.

Amendola, surrounded by reporters as court was adjourned, said the family was devastated, but that Sandusky was prepared to go to jail tonight.

"From the beginning, we knew what we were facing. Surprise would have [been if the verdict went] the other way."

Amendola said that all along, he had been frank with Sandusky about his chances in court.

"We've talked about jail, we've talked about length of sentence."

He said Sandusky was not frightened of prison.

The attorney was asked how he thought his client would fare inside.

"Individually, he'll do OK. How he does with other inmates remains to be seen. I've been very realistic with him. I never candy-coated this."

He said that the case offered good avenues for appeals, and he defended his decision to have Sandusky interviewed by NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, which many saw as detrimental to Sandusky.

Defense lawyer Carl Rominger, who conducted the cross-examination of key prosecution witness Mike McQueary, said he considered the former Penn State assistant football coach to be "a victim" in the case. It was McQueary who testified that in 2001 he witnessed Sandusky having what appeared to be anal sex with a 10- to 12-year-old boy in the football locker room showers. Yet the jury acquitted Sandusky on that count.

Rominger said he felt bad for McQueary, who he believed never saw what he thought he saw and was drawn into a government prosecution that pushed him for more and darker details.

The foster mother of one of the victims answered her phone in tears last night shortly after hearing the verdict. Both she and her foster son testified at the trial.

"Thank God it's over," she said. Her reaction? "Relief," she said. "I felt so responsible. I was supposed to be nurturing him and taking care of him. I just felt terrible. He was just a sweet, shy little kid."

Tonight wasn't the first time she cried. There have been months of trauma.

"I've been crying since December," she said.

The man known as Victim Four was becoming increasingly tense as deliberations dragged on, his mother said in a telephone interview. He was the first to testify against Sandusky.

"It had him worried," she said, noting that she had been talking to him on and off all day, "but I'm sure he's feeling better right now."

He had texted her and told her the verdict was in, but she hadn't talked to him since the results were released.

"I'm very proud of him," she said. "I don't think too many people could have done that."

In a statement Friday night, Joel Feller and Matt Casey, who represented two Sandusky victims who testified at trial, said: "With this verdict, we believe that justice was served, although it was a long time in coming. We commend the victims in this case and applaud their courageousness. We also applaud the jurors who clearly considered the overwhelming evidence, and in the end agreed that Jerry Sandusky must be held accountable for the devastating injury he has caused to these victims."

Attorney General Linda Kelly said that the jury plainly saw through the suggestions of victim conspiracy proposed by the defense. She said she saw no merit to an appeal by Sandusky. "I think justice was served."

Friday's verdict was only the first courtroom reckoning tied to the scandal.

Former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a former vice president in charge of the campus police, face charges of perjury and failing to report child abuse stemming from their response to the McQueary episode. Prosecutors say both did not report the incident to outside authorities and later lied about their knowledge of it to grand jurors. They maintain their innocence and expect to take their case before a Dauphin County jury in the next year.

Before that, Penn State officials will hear from former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired to conduct an internal investigation into the university's handling of allegations against Sandusky. His report could be released as soon as July, university trustees said.

And last week, as Sandusky's trial began, the university began preparing trustees for the possibility of an indictment against former president Graham B. Spanier. Though prosecutors did not initially charge Spanier with a crime, grand jurors have reportedly focused on his role in handling McQueary's claims.

Spanier resigned his position at the university in November on the same day trustees fired Paterno for not doing enough in response to allegations against Sandusky.

Penn State issued a statement late Friday saying, in part: "No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky, but we do hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing."

Responses flooded in after the verdict.

Gov. Corbett commended "the multiple victims in this case who had the courage to come forward and testify in court, confronting Sandusky, and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of these reprehensible crimes."

Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, said: "Today is a landmark day for survivors of sexual violence across the nation. This verdict shows the country that when allegations of such abuse are brought to light, they will be taken seriously and that a just outcome is possible."

Daniel Filler, a professor at Drexel University's Earle Mack School of Law, said: "Jerry Sandusky had nothing to lose by trying the case and he lost nothing. If he had taken a deal he would have spent the rest of his life in jail anyway. From society's point of view, however, this was probably the best possible result because the trial provided an opportunity for the community to play a part in bringing him to justice. Nothing will make the victims whole, but a conviction here is a first step in the healing process."

Several former Penn State players sounded off on Twitter.

Former quarterback Michael Robinson tweeted: "Hopefully Penn State can begin to get back to some normalcy. Cannot believe Jerry tarnished Joe's legacy. Just a sick individual."

Robinson also tweeted: "Jerry should be torn from every Penn State football history book. Pray the victims can now begin the healing process."

Zack Mills, another former quarterback, posted three tweets: "I volunteered and mentored kids in the 2nd mile while at Penn State like many PSU athletes did. One by Jerry's asking."

"I'm disgusted and sickened how his actions have destroyed so many lives."

"I hope and pray this brings more awareness to this issue and prevents this from happening again."

Former linebacker Nate Stupar, whose last year of football came in 2011 while the scandal was unfolding, wrote: "I pray for justice for the victims and their families, Penn State and JoePa. #justiceisserved"

Earlier, Stupar tweeted: "I am so proud of Penn State for sticking together through this entire Sandusky trial."

In the end, even some of Sandusky's closest neighbors, the two living on either side of him, had come to believe that the horrific charges were true - a particularly disturbing revelation considering they both have young children. Both allowed anti-sexual-abuse signs to be posted in their yards.

Shortly after Sandusky was announced guilty, one of them, Susan Strauss, an applied linguistics professor at Penn State, prepared to set off fireworks in her yard, a symbol of relief that justice had been served.

"Oh, my God, 45 counts guilty!" Strauss said as she watched the verdict on television with her children. "I just feel so relieved, and now we can start healing. So much pain has been caused."

Strauss didn't believe the charges when they were announced in November. She wrote Sanduskys a note, offering her support. But she has become increasingly convinced that there was a monster living next door to her, especially after hearing the testimony at the trial via media reports.

She recalled one time when Sandusky offered to have her 9-year-old adopted son, one of her six adopted children, come over to the house. The boy was afraid of Sandusky's dog, Bo, a St. Bernard.

"Jerry said, 'Some day you can come over and play and we'll go down into the basement,' " Strauss recalled.

She woke up in a panic one night recalling that conversation. Her son never went.

"Had we known he had these types of tendencies, we both would have made different choices with regards to trust," Strauss said.

On the other side of the Sanduskys are the Kletchkas. Paul Kletchka, in an e-mail sent Thursday morning as closing arguments were being presented, expressed sympathy for the victims who spent the last seven months with Sandusky still free as he awaited trial. That was seven months when Sandusky played with Bo on the deck and watched children on the nearby school playground, he wrote.

"Seven months of anguish for our community," he added. "We've all been painted with this broad brush, labeled football cultists who couldn't possibly mete out justice in this case. Let me tell you - people here yearn for justice to be served."

Kletchka said shortly before the verdict was announced that he called in sick Friday. He was particularly disturbed that Matt Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky's adopted son, had said Thursday that he, too, had been abused.

"Today was just terrible," he said, shortly after watching Sandusky be taken away from his State College home to return to the courtroom to hear the verdict.

At the statue of Paterno on the Penn State campus, Brad McClellan of Allentown said he had mixed emotions about the verdict.

"I'm crying now because I'm glad it's over, at least this stage of it," he said. "I feel like the people involved have at least some vindication that it wasn't all for nothing, that Joe didn't lose his job over nothing. But growing up Penn State from the day I was born, these men were my heroes. Joe still is. That's why I'm here."

Tom Bowser, 43, grew up in State College, though he didn't go to Penn State. Now living in New York, he said that he came to the Paterno statue as "my way of paying respects."

"As a person that grew up in this town, it's a tragedy," Bowser said. "This was a great place to grow up as a kid. You know the people in this town intimately. It truly was a tragedy. A lot of people were hurt."

As for the verdict, Bowser said: "The nice way to put it is, he got apparently what he deserved."

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Inquirer staff writers Jeff Gammage, Joe Juliano, and Susan Snyder contributed to this article.

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