BELLEFONTE, Pa. (MCT) — Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to spend the next 30 to 60 years behind bars in a state prison for abusing 10 boys, an end to a case that’s rocked the community, tarnished Penn State’s reputation and shattered forever the lives 10 young men.
Most importantly, that means the convicted pedophile — the man once admired for his charity and stature in the community who even maintained his innocence face to face with the judge on Tuesday — will never violate anyone in this community again. Senior Judge John Cleland essentially gave the 68-year-old Sandusky a life sentence, saying he expected the former coach to die in prison.
“You abused the trust of those who trusted you,” Cleland told a frail-looking Sandusky, dressed in a red jumpsuit, at a podium with his defense attorney, Joe Amendola. “These are not crimes committed against strangers.”
The victims were young boys Sandusky met through The Second Mile charity he founded — boys he took for workouts in Penn State sports facilities, boys he took to football games, boys he invited to stay overnight at his house. Eight of them testified in graphic detail in June to being molested — some were abused sexually, some were groped or fondled.
Four of them were in court to watch their former role model be sent away forever, and three spoke in front of the judge about the harm Sandusky inflicted on them.
Sandusky betrayed them, the judge said, by assaulting their bodies and also their psyches.
“That is much, much worse,” Cleland said. “It is precisely that ability to conceal those vices from yourself and everyone else, in my view, that makes you dangerous.”
Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts at trial, and because of the number of counts, Sandusky was looking at a much higher sentence. But Cleland said he was not going to impose a long sentence just to send some sort of statement.
“I’m not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law will permit that,” Cleland said.
Instead, he gave Sandusky 10-year minimum sentences on two of the most serious counts — involuntary deviate sexual intercourse — and five years on the same counts at the time of the offense. The other counts, which include indecent assault, corruption of minors, child endangerment and unlawful contact with minors, will run concurrently and not add to the 30- to 60-year sentence.
Cleland said he took into account the severity of the offense, Sandusky’s danger to the community and his rehabilitative needs.
An unapologetic Sandusky addressed the court for 15 minutes, denying several times he did anything wrong but trumpeting his conviction did not ruin his resolve.
“They can’t take away my heart, and in my heart I did not do these alleged disgusting acts,” he said.
It was at times a rambling oration, telling the judge he had seen the light, that he visited mobile home parks to visit Second Mile participants and that he rolled over in bed in his cell in county jail upon realizing his wife was not with him on their 46th wedding anniversary.
“I speak today with hope in my heart for a brighter day, not knowing if that day will come,” Sandusky said. “Many moments have been spent looking for a purpose. Maybe it will help others, some vulnerable children who might have been abused, might not be, as a result of the publicity.”
He read a card from a former Second Mile participant that praised Sandusky for helping that person.
He also told the judge his wife was his only sex partner — after they got married.
Sandusky started to choke up when he said how unbearable it had been to be separated from his loved ones while in jail.
Some of Sandusky’s statements were nearly identical to what he said in an audio recording released Monday on the eve of sentencing.
Lead prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan said the recording was an insult to the victims, the jury, the judge and “human decency.” He later said the rambling statement was ludicrous.
Cleland said he reviewed that statement as part of the collection of materials he considered when deciding on the sentence.
“Like all conspiracy theories, it flows from the undeniable to the unbelievable,” the judge said.
Sandusky will be 98 when he’s eligible for parole. Under state law, a defendant is not eligible until he or she has served the minimum sentence. Sandusky was given credit for 112 days he’s spent in the county jail waiting since his conviction in June.
The prosecuting and defense attorneys did not ask the judge for specific lengths to the sentence, which is customary at sentencing hearings.
McGettigan made a passionate plea to the judge to consider how Sandusky has remained defiant by maintaining his innocence.
“His depravity spread across the spectrum of human behavior,” McGettigan said. “He treated his victims like his sexual property to use as he saw fit.”
Amendola wanted the judge to consider the good Sandusky did for his community and reminded him of the defense’s character witnesses who testified at trial. Amendola did ask for leniency.
For the young men who are forever scarred with memories of Sandusky showering with them or plying them with gifts for ulterior motives, they had one last chance to look Sandusky in the face and say what they thought of him.
The young men known as Victims 4, 5 and 6 spoke in court. McGettigan read statements from Victim 1 and the mother of Victim 9.
Victim 4 shot angry looks at Sandusky. He told Sandusky to be ashamed for what he did. The young man thought Sandusky was a “role model,” but instead Sandusky “screwed up” his life, he said.
“I want you to know I don’t forgive you and I don’t know if I will ever forgive you,” he said. “My only regret is that I didn’t come forward sooner.”
The statement from the mother of Victim 9 said she’s embarrassed how Sandusky gained her trust and exploited her son. Her son has tried to take his own life, she said in the statement.
“Not only did you molest him, Mr. Sandusky, you caused him a lifetime of sorrow and suffering,” the statement read. “How cruel of you.
“There is no punishment sufficient for you. You are a horrible person.”
After the sentencing, victims’ attorney Justine Andronici said there isn’t a sentence long enough for Sandusky. Her clients — Nos. 3, 6, 7 and 10 — were not in court, but they did provide letters to the judge for his consideration in crafting a sentence.
She said her clients think “there isn’t a sentence big enough for what Jerry did.” She was offended at Sandusky’s statement, and she’s relieved her clients did not have to witness it.
“It shows zero compassion for what they’ve been through,” she said. “Clearly, it identified the fact that he sees this all about him.”
Philadelphia attorney Tom Kline, whose client, Victim 5, fought through tears and choking up while reading a statement to the judge, and investigator Anthony Sassano said they were satisfied with the sentence, too.
The sentencing was witnessed by an audience of more than 200 that included Dottie Sandusky and four of their adopted children, the victims’ family members, jurors from the trial, the Clinton County caseworker who first looked into the abuse allegations from Victim 1, a woman who published books of encouragement for the victims, and national media.
Paul and Dana Kletchka, who are the Sanduskys’ neighbors, attended the hearing and were satisfied with the sentence. But they’re left wondering what Dottie Sandusky is really like.
“We thought we knew both of them,” said Paul Kletchka, who has lived next door to the Sanduskys for 11 years.
Juror Joshua Harper, a Bellefonte Area High School teacher, said he felt the sentence was fair. He was taken aback by Sandusky’s statement, calling it “cryptic” and without “much substance.”
Before the sentencing part of the hearing began, Cleland declared Sandusky a sexually violent predator. That would require him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life if he’s ever released from prison.
In about 10 days, Sandusky will be taken to the state prison system’s diagnostic center in suburban Harrisburg.
Sandusky has 10 days to file post-sentence motions with Cleland. He will have 120 days to file appeals to the state’s Superior Court.
The defense attorneys have repeatedly said they would appeal the conviction on the grounds they did not have enough time to prepare for trial.