Judge sentences Sandusky to 30-60 years in prison
BELLEFONTE - Jerry Sandusky will likely die in prison.
Senior Judge John M. Cleland sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State defensive coordinator Tuesday to 30 to 60 years in state prison for sexually abusing at least 10 boys over the last two decades.
He will not be eligible for parole until age 98.
The sentence, Cleland told Sandusky, has the "unmistakable effect of saying you will spend the rest of your life in prison."
Sandusky, appearing gaunt in a red jumpsuit marked "Centre County," stood to the right of his attorney, Joseph Amendola, and rocked slightly as he listened to Cleland.
Afterward, Amendola said they would appeal.
"The tragedy of this crime is that it is a story of betrayal," Cleland told Sandusky. "The most obvious aspect is your betrayal of 10 children. You abused the trust of those who trusted you."
Sandusky's victims, three of whom spoke at the sentencing Tuesday, should not feel "embarrassment" or "shame," Cleland said.
"As children you were the victims of a pedophile," he said. "His deception included creating in you the feeling of guilt. For your courage and not for your assault you will be remembered."
Gov. Tom Corbett, who initiated the state investigation into Sandusky while Pennsylvania attorney general, praised the victims in a statement Tuesday for their "courage to come forward and testify in open court, in spite of tremendous pressure and national publicity."
"Today's sentence will hopefully give comfort to those young men, whose trust in the justice system is rewarded by seeing this man go to prison for the rest of his life," Corbett said.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson, whose institution faces significant civil liability after an internal investigation showed administrators covered up a 2001 report of abuse, echoed Corbett's sentiment.
"Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky's abuse," Erickson said in a statement. "While today's sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery."
The victims who spoke in court Tuesday confronted Sandusky with the lifetime of emotional distress they said his years of physical abuse had caused.
"I will never erase the filthy images of his naked body, his hands on me, him forcing my hands on him," Victim 5 said. "He took away my childhood the day he touched me. He should be sentenced accordingly."
Another, Victim 4, said he no longer trusts people and will not let his own son out of his sight for fear someone like Sandusky would harm him.
Sandusky, in a rambling address, again denied the allegations that led to his conviction in June on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse.
"They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they can treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart," Sandusky said. "In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts."
His voice shook and his eyes welled near the end of his speech, which echoed the themes of his statement Monday to a Penn State student radio station.
"We're going to smile through the pain," Sandusky said, turning to his wife, Dottie, and several of their adopted children in the gallery. "We're going to laugh. We're going to cry. Because that's who we are."
The lead prosecutor, Joseph McGettigan, called the statement, "a banal, delusional, self-referential, ludicrous statement that appeared to be, frankly, a testimony to himself without reference to the victims."
"The fact that he's going to spend the rest of his life in jail is a testament to its value," McGettigan continued. "It should disappear as if it never existed."
McGettigan read statements from Victim 1, the Clinton County high school student who reported Sandusky to the authorities in November 2008, and from the mother of Victim 9.
"Jerry Sandusky is the worst kind of pedophile, taking advantage of his status and power to take advantage of young men who needed a mentor," Victim 1 said.
Prior to his sentencing, Sandusky conceded the designation "sexually violent predator," which would require him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life under the state's Megan's Law statute.
Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola sent a letter to Cleland on Oct. 3 stating Sandusky "maintains his innocence but will not present evidence opposing the finding that he is a sexually violent predator."
Despite the concession and the prospect of a lifetime in jail, Sandusky never considered a plea agreement because he has always maintained his innocence, Amendola said.
"Jerry Sandusky wanted none of it," Amendola said. "Jerry never flinched from his position that he was innocent and he wanted the opportunity to prove his innocence and that he would not entertain any plea offer."
The sentencing Tuesday marked the close of a tortured legal chapter for Sandusky's victims and this community.
Others are sure to follow.
The two former Penn State officials accused in the cover-up, Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz, are scheduled for trial in January.
And Sandusky's attorneys, citing a lack of time to prepare between Sandusky's arrest trial last November and trial in June, reiterated their intent to appeal.
With more time, Amendola and co-counsel Karl Rominger said they would have been able to thoroughly review thousands of pages of records turned over by prosecutors and could have better investigated their theory that some accusers colluded for monetary gain.
"I can get you three continuances for a parking ticket, I can't get one continuance for Jerry Sandusky," Rominger told reporters after the sentencing.
Jerry Sandusky will remain at the Centre County Correctional Facility for 10 days before being moved to the Department of Corrections Diagnostic and Classification Center at Camp Hill for processing and placement in another state prison facility.
Sandusky's age and sex offender status will factor heavily into where he serves the remainder of his 30-to-60-year prison term and could lead to restrictions, including solitary confinement, for his own protection.
Sandusky's attorneys reiterated Tuesday that they would appeal his conviction and sentence. Under state law, they can first file post-sentencing motions or appeal directly to the state Superior Court.
Post-sentence motions, which often include a petition for a judge to reconsider his or her sentence, must be filed within 10 days and the judge must rule within 120 days. If the judge does not rule within 120 days, they are automatically denied.
If the attorneys appeal directly to the state Superior Court, they must do so within 30 days. If they file post-sentence motions first, they can appeal to the Superior Court up to 30 days after the judge issues his rulings.
Former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and university Vice President Gary Schultz are scheduled for trial in January on charges they covered up a 2001 abuse allegation and later lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky.
Attorneys for Sandusky's victims have said they will file civil lawsuits against Penn State and other parties they said are responsible for enabling Sandusky's abuse. A court order, however, has halted those potential lawsuits until the criminal case against Curley and Schultz is resolved.
Attorneys for Penn State have already contacted attorneys for the victims to open settlement negotiations. Joel Feller, the Hazleton native who represents four of the victims, said he spoke to attorneys for Penn State as recently as last week.
Three of Jerry Sandusky's victims spoke in court Tuesday. They were:
Victim 4: The lead witness at Sandusky's trial in June.
He met Sandusky in 1996 or 1997 at age 12 or 13 through the former Penn State defensive coordinator's Second Mile program. He often stayed with Sandusky and the team at a resort near the Penn State campus the night before home games and accompanied Sandusky to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., and the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, in 1999.
At Sandusky's trial, the victim described how Sandusky enticed him with sideline passes to football games and then gradually took advantage, turning "soap battles" in the team's shower room into forced oral sex.
On Tuesday, he spoke last and addressed Sandusky directly. He criticized his mentor-turned-tormentor for repeatedly embracing a conspiracy theory and blaming the victims instead of taking responsibility for his heinous crimes.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Victim 4, now 28, said. "I want you to know I will not forgive you. I don't know if I could ever forgive you."
Victim 5: The son of Polish immigrants, he testified that Sandusky assaulted him in a Penn State shower after a workout at the football facility in August 2001.
Sandusky removed his towel in a sauna and exposed himself, Victim 5 said. Later, in the shower, Sandusky forced him to touch his penis, Victim 5 said.
The incident happened five or six years after Victim 5 met Sandusky through a Second Mile camp on the Penn State campus. In the interim, Sandusky took him to at least 15 Penn State football games.
In what prosecutors described as grooming behavior, Sandusky often put his hand on Victim 5's left leg when they were driving in Sandusky's car and whenever the boy sat in the front seat.
Victim 5 focused on the shower assault as he addressed the court Thursday.
"I will never erase from my mind the filthy images of his naked body, him forcing himself against me and my hands against him," Victim 5 said. "He took away my childhood the day he assaulted me. He should be sentenced accordingly."
Victim 6: The victim in a brief 1998 police investigation into Sandusky's abuse.
He testified that Sandusky showered with him, then 11, on May 3, 1998, after a workout at the Penn State football facility. Victim 6 said Sandusky washed his hair and picked him up from behind. Sandusky tickled him, Victim 6 said, and referred to himself as the "tickle monster."
After Sandusky dropped him off, Victim 6 said he made a veiled report to his mother: "If you're wondering why my hair is wet, it's because we took a shower."
She alerted university police and detectives later listened in as Sandusky told her: "I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won't get it from you. I wish I were dead."
Victim 6, who graduated from Bible college shortly before the June trial, recited biblical passages Tuesday as he implored Sandusky to confess and seek salvation.
"I believe you are only fooling yourself as you are trying to speak forth your innocence," Victim 6 said. "It is time to admit your guilt."
- Michael R. Sisak