BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing boys, crimes that roiled the university community and shook one of major college football’s most prominent programs.
The ruling was handed down in Centre County Court by Judge John Cleland, and it essentially guaranteed that Sandusky, 68, would die in prison. The sentencing came roughly 31/2 months after a jury found him guilty of 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
Sandusky, the jury determined, had abused 10 boys, all of them from disadvantaged homes. Sandusky used his connections to the Penn State football program, as well as his own charity for disadvantaged youth, the Second Mile, to identify potential victims, get close to them and then sexually violate them.
In a recorded statement broadcast on a Penn State radio station Monday night, a defiant Sandusky said, “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. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner, and that was after marriage.”
Sandusky painted a picture of his life in prison. He used his small cell as a metaphor. On his 46th wedding anniversary, he said, he rolled over in bed expecting his wife, Dottie, to be there. Instead, he literally hit the wall.
Sandusky arrived at the court Tuesday dressed in a red prison outfit and looking thinner than he had at his trial. He spoke for about 15 minutes before the sentence was handed down, again denying that he had abused the boys.
Cleland said Sandusky’s ability to deceive those who trusted him and thought so highly of him was what made his acts so “heinous.”
“I’m not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law will permit that,” Cleland said, although he added that he expected Sandusky to be in prison for the rest of his life.
Sandusky’s crimes have exacted a tremendous toll on Penn State. Within days of the grand jury indictment of Sandusky being made public in November, Joe Paterno, the football team’s famed head coach and a patriarchal figure at the university, was fired. He had been alerted to at least one of Sandusky’s attacks on a boy. Within months, Paterno was dead of cancer at age 85.
The university’s president, Graham Spanier, also was dismissed, and the Penn State community found itself confronting the idea that it had placed the interests of its football team above concern for at-risk children.
A seven-month investigation conducted by Louis J. Freeh, a former FBI director, determined Penn State’s leaders – most prominently Spanier, Paterno, former university vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley – disregarded the welfare of Sandusky’s victims.
After Freeh’s report was released, some Penn State supporters, including Paterno’s family, viewed it as a flawed and incomplete rendering of what happened.
The NCAA, relying on the Freeh report, fined the university $60 million and imposed a four-year postseason ban and hefty scholarship reduction on the football team. It also vacated all football victories since 1998, when the sexual assaults documented in the grand jury indictment against Sandusky were believed to have begun.
The case is far from settled. Four of Sandusky’s victims are suing the university. Victim 1, as he has been called in court, has written a book set to be released Oct. 23.
Mike McQueary, the former assistant coach who testified to seeing Sandusky sexually abuse a boy in the shower on Penn State’s campus in 2001, sued the university last week for misrepresentation and defamation, saying the university had mistreated him since Sandusky’s actions became public. McQueary had reported the incident to Paterno, who was faulted for not responding aggressively, and other Penn State officials.
Curley, who is on leave, and Schultz are scheduled to stand trial in January.