Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Jerry Sandusky will spend at least the next 30 to 60 years in state prison. The sentence was handed down Tuesday morning after statements from attorneys, victims, and Sandusky himself.
“I’m not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law would permit that,” said Senior Judge John Cleland, who presided over the trial in June, when a jury convicted Sandusky on 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of a decade and a half.
Clad in red prison garb, with the words “CENTRE COUNTY PRISON” on his back, Sandusky addressed the court, “not from arrogance but from my heart,” he began.
“I didn’t do these alleged disgusting acts,” he said during his 15 minutes at the podium in front of the judge. Some lines were exactly the same as those from a recorded jailhouse statement broadcast Monday evening by a Penn State student radio station.
Sandusky, who never testified in his own defense during trial, noted the pain of being separated from his wife and family. He approximately quoted Henry David Thoreau (“It doesn’t matter what you look at, it’s what you see”). He referred to a favorite movie, Seabiscuit (“I love underdogs”). He surveyed his life’s ups and downs (“I’ve been kissed by dogs, I’ve been bit by dogs”). He noted his new relationship with the penal system (“I’ve visited prisons… now I stay in one”).
“They can treat me as a monster but they can’t take away my heart,” he said.
“Ridiculous,” said Pennsylvania senior deputy attorney general Joe McGettigan, when asked for his reaction.
“His statement today was a masterpiece [of] banal self-delusion completely untethered from reality and without any acceptance of responsibility” said McGettigan. “It was entirely self-focused.”
Three of Sandusky’s victims also read statements, two of them tearful as they did so.
One of them remembered being assaulted in 1998, in the Penn State locker room shower. “That night you told me you were the tickle monster so you could touch my 11-year-old body,” he said. He went on: “You can choose to be in denial… I believe you are only fooling yourself.”
The second victim said he’s still haunted by the abuses he suffered. “I will never erase the filthy images of his naked body against mine,” he said of Sandusky.
The last victim to speak at the sentencing hearing was the first who testified during Sandusky’s trial. The young man’s demeanor was every bit as direct Tuesday morning as it was in June. “I can’t begin to explain how this has screwed up my life,” he began. He addressed his abuser: “I don’t forgive you… I grew up in a bad situation and you made things worse.”
The judge spoke directly to the victims before announcing the sentence. “It is for your courage, not for your assault, that you will be remembered,” he said from the bench.
Sandusky’s lawyers say they’re already working on an appeal on the grounds the case was rushed to court.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola pointed to former Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, who still await trial on charges they allegedly covered up sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky.
“Just take Curley, Schultz: two charges, 14 months at least,” he said, referring to the time that will have elapsed if they go to trial in January. “Jerry Sandusky: 10 separate counts and we had four and a half months flying by the seat of our pants,” he said, simplifying the numerous charges down to the number of victims involved.
McGettigan responded by making a dig at Amendola’s past lengthy Q&A sessions with reporters.
“I understand that a person in his position feels they must devote a certain amount of time to the media, but he might have spent it preparing,” said McGettigan.
Sandusky will spend the next 10 days in Centre County Prison before heading to a processing facility in Camp Hill, Cumberland County. From there, he’ll go to the state prison where he’ll serve out the rest of his sentence. The 112 days he has spent in jail since his conviction count toward the total prison term.
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