Pennsylvania State University, its reputation damaged by the trial of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, may have to compensate his victims after his conviction on 45 counts in the child-sex abuse case.
“Penn State is likely to have to pay these victims a great deal of money to compensate them for the awful things that happened to them, most of which might not have occurred had Penn State officials put the safety of children above the reputation of their institution,” said Lisa Friel, former chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s sex crimes unit and now vice president of sexual misconduct consulting for T&M Protection Resources LLC, a security and investigations company.
Jurors in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, deliberated about 20 hours over two days before convicting Sandusky of charges including engaging in involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with someone under 16 and aggravated indecent assault over his abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year-period.
The 68-year-old Sandusky, who was led away in handcuffs by police after the June 22 verdict, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on each of the most serious charges, meaning he could spend the rest of his life in prison after he is sentenced by Judge John M. Cleland. Sandusky’s lawyer said the former coach would appeal his conviction.
Sandusky, who had been under house arrest since waiving a preliminary hearing in December, was being held yesterday at the Centre County Correctional Facility, according to the jail’s website. The former defensive coordinator for Penn State’s Nittany Lions football squad had been charged with 52 criminal counts related to the alleged abuse of 10 boys he met through a charity he founded for needy children. Cleland dismissed some of the counts before the jury began deliberations.
Penn State said it would establish a forum to help address the concerns of Sandusky’s victims and compensate them for claims related to the university.
“No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky but we hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing,” university officials said in an e-mailed statement after the verdict.
“Counsel to the university plan to reach out to counsel to the victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse in the near future with additional details,” the officials said.
Sandusky played and coached under Joe Paterno, Penn State’s head football coach, for more than 30 years before retiring in 1999. Paterno, who died in January, and former university President Graham Spanier were fired amid criticism they didn’t do enough to stop Sandusky’s alleged abuse.
Two Penn State officials, athletic director Timothy Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz, were charged with perjury and failing to report allegations of sex abuse of boys Sandusky befriended. Curley and Schultz have denied wrongdoing.
Paterno coached the team to 409 wins, a record at college football’s highest level. The victories included two national championships and a record 24 bowl victories in 46 seasons as head coach at one of college football’s most prestigious programs.
The Penn State athletic program had an operating profit of $18.5 million in fiscal year 2010, the highest in the Big Ten conference. The football team’s $49.2 million in operating profit was also highest in the league.
The school earned the nickname ``Linebacker U'' because of its tendency to develop defensive players ready for National Football League. Linebackers who played at Penn State under Sandusky include Jack Ham, a Hall of Fame inductee, and Pro Bowl selections LaVar Arrington and Shane Conlan.
The Nittany Lions were 8-1 last season and ranked No. 16 before the Sandusky was charged and Paterno was fired. The team was 1-3 in its final four games under interim head coach Tom Bradley, including a 30-14 loss to Houston in the Ticket City Bowl, the school’s worst postseason loss in 20 years.
The charges against Sandusky had an immediate effect on the football team’s recruiting, as some top high school players who were originally considering the Nittany Lions turned their focus elsewhere. Noah Spence, rated a five-star defensive end by Rivals.com, chose to attend Big Ten-rival Ohio State University, as did four-star defensive tackle Tommy Schutt.
They were followed by offensive lineman Joey O’Connor, who rescinded a verbal commitment to Penn State and later agreed to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes. J.P. Holtz, a four-star tight end from Pittsburgh, also dropped his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions.
The Paterno family, according to a statement e-mailed on its behalf by Mara Vandlik at McGinn & Co., said the community owes gratitude to jurors for their service.
“Although we understand the task of healing is just beginning, today’s verdict is an important milestone,” according to the June 22 statement. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families.”
After the verdict, Joseph Amendola, Sandusky’s lead defense attorney, said in an interview that the ex-coach’s family was disappointed. Still, they knew he faced “a tidal wave of public opinion against him,” he said.
“We have some appeal issues we’ll pursue,” Amendola said. Members of the jury declined to comment on their deliberations.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly praised Sandusky’s victims for stepping forward and telling jurors about the crimes he perpetrated against them.
“Most of us cannot possibly comprehend what” Sandusky’s victims endured by reliving their abuse while testifying in court, Kelly said in an interview.
Sandusky was initially accused in November of abusing eight boys. Prosecutors added more counts the following month when two new accusers came forward.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors portrayed Sandusky as a serial child molester who used the Second Mile, the charity he founded, to recruit his victims, befriending them and “grooming” them with gifts, trips to Penn State football games and money.
Amendola argued throughout the trial that the coach was innocent of the charges, which were the product of overzealous investigators. Sandusky didn’t testify.
Many of the incidents allegedly took place in a locker room in the Lasch Football Building on Penn State’s campus. Assistant football coach Mike McQueary told jurors about witnessing a late-night assault in the locker room shower when he was a graduate assistant.
Jurors acquitted Sandusky of the most serious charge related to Victim 2, a 10-year-old boy the former coach is accused of abusing in 2001. The alleged abuse of the boy, whose identity is still unknown, is at the heart of the cases against Curley and Schultz, which are still pending.
Some of Sandusky’s victims took the witness stand to recount their dealings with the coach, both at his home and on campus.
A 28-year-old man who met Sandusky through Second Mile testified that the ex-coach began touching him inappropriately in 1997. He was identified in court papers as “Victim 4.”
The man said Sandusky invited him to play racquetball at Penn State when he was a 14-year-old student at a local high school. Afterward, Sandusky would touch his genitals as the two “soaped up” in the shower, the victim testified.
Sandusky enticed him into a long-term relationship by giving him sideline passes to Penn State football games, taking him to golf outings and inviting him to family picnics, the man said.
The abuse progressed to the point that Sandusky began forcing him to perform oral sex, the man said. That occurred more than 40 times during the five-year relationship, he said.
Hiding in Closet
The man said as he matured, he distanced himself from Sandusky and the coach would sometimes come over to his house looking for him.
“Sometimes if I got home I would look outside and he’d be there and I’d grab the phone and hide in the closet, just hoping he wouldn’t find me,” the man told jurors.
Second Mile served children with physical, emotional and academic needs, according to its website. The charity said in May that it would close and transfer its assets to a Houston-based nonprofit.
Those assets more than tripled from 2002 through 2009, according to Internal Revenue Service filings. Second Mile had revenue of $2.7 million and net assets of $9 million, according to its 2010 annual report. Sandusky was the group’s primary fundraiser.
Throughout the trial, Amendola sought to convince jurors that state police troopers who investigated the cases against Sandusky coached witnesses into making the sexual abuse claims. He also produced other retired Penn State football coaches to testify about Sandusky’s sterling reputation in the community.
Dottie Sandusky, the defendant’s wife, told jurors she never had any indication that her husband abused boys he befriended over the years.
After jury deliberations began, lawyers for one of Jerry Sandusky’s adopted children, Matt Sandusky, said he had been abused by the former coach and had offered to testify in the case, his lawyers said.
Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici, Matt Sandusky’s lawyers, said in a statement that they arranged a meeting between him and prosecutors and investigators at their client’s request. They gave no details and didn’t say why prosecutors didn’t call Matt Sandusky to testify.
Advocates for sexual abuse victims hailed Sandusky’s conviction as evidence that juries are willing to hold abusers accountable regardless of their status in communities.
“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,” Scott Berkowitz, founder and president Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, said in an e-mailed statement.
The case is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Sandusky, CP-14-2422-2011, Court of Common Pleas, Centre County, Pennsylvania (Bellefonte).