The measured, gray-haired jurist never took his eyes off the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach, who was showing signs of the rigors of prison life.
His hair was short. His weight was down. He looked forlorn, dressed in a barn-red prison jumpsuit with "Centre County" stamped on the back.
"I feel a need to talk, not from arrogance but from my heart. There's so much I want to say I've been advised not to say," Sandusky told the court.
"I didn't do those disgusting acts."
Sandusky, 68, never took the stand in his own defense at his trial in June. He regrets that, his attorney said. And Sandusky told the court Tuesday that he has hope in his heart for a brighter day. Hope for another chance - in the form of an appeal.
"Please don't close the book today at sentencing. There's a lot left to learn if you choose to do that," Sandusky implored, struggling to maintain his composure.
He said he had wondered if there was a greater purpose behind his incarceration. And he decided that maybe it was to help others, that the enormous publicity surrounding his case might prevent some vulnerable children somewhere from being abused.
"I would cherish the ability to be a little candle for others, as they have been a light to me," Sandusky told the court.
Listening, one of Sandusky's victims lowered his head until it hung nearly between his knees. A friend put his hand on the young man's shoulder.
Sandusky spoke of the pain of celebrating his 46th wedding anniversary in jail - with the woman, he took care to state, who was his only sex partner.
He meditates in his cell, he said. He reads. And exercises. His experience with troubled youths in his Second Mile charity - an organization the prosecutor called "a victim factory" - helps him deal with outbursts by other inmates.
"Often when it is darkest, God sends his light," Sandusky said. He said that "light" arrives by way of cards and letters from people who care about him.
He read what he said was a note from a young man he once helped.
" 'I remember staying at your home and how good it was, how good you and your family were to me,' " Sandusky read. " 'Most of all, you being Jerry and my best friend. . . . I love you, Jerry. Please be strong and never give up.' "
Sitting in jail, reading the works of writers who examined the best and worst of life, "certainly put my struggles in perspective," he told the court.
"I've been blessed. I've been to the mountaintop. I've seen the valley of the shadow of death. I've been in a locker room crying as national champs. I've been in a locker room crying, devastated after a difficult loss."
He said he would keep his head up and smile "because I've always smiled through the pain. We're going to laugh. And we're going to cry. Because that's who we are."
His wife, Dorothy, dressed in a warm, purple sweater, watched intently.
She sat in a front row, surrounded by children and friends. Four of the couple's six children were present, according to defense lawyer Joseph Amendola. One could not attend, and the sixth, Matt, in a reversal, has accused his father of having molested him.
"It would be unbearable without your love," Sandusky told his family. "It would be unmanageable without God's hope and light."
His wife smiled at him as he left the lectern. The judge did not.
Cleland told Sandusky he had gotten a fair trial. That his sentence would be based only on the facts presented in court. And that it was indisputable that he had done much good in his life.
Sandusky stood, his shoulder against that of his lawyer, Amendola.
The sentence landed not with a clang but with the soft thud of the expected: 30 to 60 years, less 112 days' credit for time served.
"Do you have any questions about that sentence?" Cleland asked.
Sandusky shook his head.
Court was adjourned a minute later. Sheriff's deputies called to Sandusky to come with them. He turned, smiled at his wife, and blew her a kiss. A second later, he was gone.
Contact Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JeffGammage.
We invite you to comment on this story by clicking here. Comments will be moderated.