PHILADELPHIA (MCT) — Jerry Sandusky’s wife stood by her husband as a “man of very high morals” and trashed their adopted son for saying that he too was sexually abused by his father in a letter to the judge deciding her husband’s fate.
“People need to know what kind of person he is,” wrote Dorothy “Dottie” Sandusky of son Matt, 33, in the document, sent two weeks after her husband’s conviction and obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer this week.
The letter, dated July 9, characterizes Matt Sandusky as a mentally ill liar and thief and asks Judge John M. Cleland to discount her youngest son’s allegations in determining a sentence for her husband.
It was one of several similar missives Cleland considered before sentencing the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Tuesday to 30 to 60 years in prison for the serial sexual abuse of 10 adolescent boys.
And while jurors did not learn of Matt Sandusky’s accusations until after delivering their verdict in June and his alleged abuse played no part in his father’s sentence this week, the letter penned by his mother lays bare the painful family divisions.
“They said the same kinds of things about all of Jerry Sandusky’s victims,” said attorney Matt Casey, one of a team of lawyers that represents Matt Sandusky and several other accusers of the former coach. “It’s part and parcel of this whole tragedy that these young men have been continually victimized by their abuser.”
Dorothy and Jerry Sandusky have not spoken to their youngest son since he publicly accused his father of sexual abuse in the middle of his trial, the former coach’s lawyers said this week. Matt Sandusky did not attend the sentencing Tuesday but his attorneys said he still plans to sue his adoptive father in civil court.
Calls placed to both Matt and Dorothy Sandusky went unreturned Wednesday.
In her letter, Dorothy Sandusky described her son’s shift from onetime ally to his father’s accuser as just one in a decades-long series of betrayals from the man she and her husband welcomed into their home as a troubled 17-year-old.
“We have forgiven him many times for all he has done to our family, thinking that he was changing his life,” she wrote. “But he would always go back to stealing and lies.”
During the run-up to his father’s trial, Matt, one of the Sandusky family’s six adopted children, had denied on several occasions that he had ever been abused, and he originally agreed to testify for the former coach’s defense.
But hours after jurors began deliberating Jerry Sandusky’s fate, the 33-year-old’s attorneys dropped a bombshell, publicly disclosing that their client had turned state’s witness and was now alleging his own abuse.
Though he never testified at trial, Matt Sandusky explained his motivation in a taped interview with investigators leaked to the news media in June.
“I came forward for different reasons,” he said. “I mean, for my family, so that they can really have closure and see what the truth actually is.”
But which family he was referring to remains unclear.
Matt Sandusky was born Matt Heichel, and first met Jerry Sandusky as an 8-year-old foster child with a troubled home life. He moved into the former coach’s home nine years later and was formally adopted at the age of 18. He has not yet stated publicly when his adoptive father allegedly began to sexually abuse him.
Matt Sandusky’s biological mother, Debra Long, suspected something suspicious early on in the relationship.
Jerry Sandusky took an interest in her son the same way many of the former coach’s other accusers would later describe. They met at The Second Mile, the charity from which the elder Sandusky culled all of his victims. They attended football games and worked out together.
“I would sit back and watch when Jerry would show up, how excited Matt was,” Long told ABC News in an interview last November. “And then, as time went on, I would watch the same kid hide behind the bedroom door and say, ‘Mom, tell him I’m not home.’ ”
Matt moved in with the Sanduskys after burning down a barn in 1995. But his trouble seemed to grow worse there, according to his interview with investigators.
He ran away from the couple a year later. At one point, police responded to the house to investigate him for stealing. And about four months after moving in, he attempted suicide.
In his interview with investigators this summer, Matt Sandusky characterized his acting out as a cry for help during a period of sustained abuse.
“It just became very uncomfortable,” he said on the recording. “With the showering, with the hugging, with the rubbing, with the — just talking to me. The way he spoke … Anything, any time we were alone.”
Dorothy Sandusky offered another explanation for her son’s behavior in her letter to Cleland: “He has been diagnosed with bipolar, but he refuses to take his medicine.”
Her son’s lawyer declined to discuss Wednesday whether Matt Sandusky has been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Whatever the cause, his decision to publicly accuse his father dealt the former coach’s defense a devastating blow at trial, his attorneys have said.
Court transcripts of the proceeding reveal an intense back and forth in the judge’s chambers once Matt Sandusky’s cooperation with prosecutors was revealed.
Jerry Sandusky planned to testify in his own defense. His attorneys feared prosecutors could call his son as a rebuttal witness. Ultimately, they decided to keep the former coach off the stand.
“He always wanted to tell people his side of the allegations,” defense lawyer Joseph Amendola is quoted as saying in the transcript. “However, the potential evidence, whether true or not, was so devastating.”
Writing to Cleland Sept. 27, Jerry Sandusky singled out his decision not to testify as the chief factor he believes lost him his case. And while he acknowledged his son’s accusations played into that choice, the former coach reserved most of the blame himself.
“Our son changed our plans when he switched sides,” Sandusky wrote. “I was supposed to be David but failed to pick up the slingshot. Goliath won, and I must deal with the outcome.”
His wife’s feelings, however, remain more conflicted.
“We still love him and want the best for him,” she wrote of her son. “But because of his actions we cannot express this to him.”