Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football assistant coach, was convicted on Friday of 45 counts related to his sexual abuse of 10 underage boys. Sandusky, 68, is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.
When Sandusky’s actions came to light last fall after an exhaustive grand jury investigation, they rocked Penn State, the college football world, and the country. Officials at the highest levels of the school were implicated either in a cover-up or, at the very least, extraordinary negligence when it was revealed that, in 2002, graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky assaulting a boy in the Penn State locker room shower and reported the events to legendary football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno in turn reported the events to his supervisors and, apparently, considered his hands washed of the matter. The police were never contacted.
Sandusky, at the time retired for several years but still retaining access to Penn State facilities, was told after the incident not to bring young boys onto campus. When the grand jury report was released, Paterno was fired. He died soon after. Other officials fired in the wake of the scandal included the school’s athletic director and its president.
Sandusky ran a multimillion dollar charity, Second Mile, aimed at helping underprivileged youth. According to the prosecution, it was the boys he encountered there that he groomed to be his victims.
The trial featured the testimony of ten of his victims, all of them now adults grappling with the scars from what happened to them. The testimony of the victims and their families was disturbing and harrowing. Sandusky’s lawyer Joseph Amendola attacked the credibility of the victims, claiming a conspiracy meant to extort his client, but failed to sway the jury.
Sandusky ultimately did not speak in his own defense. The prosecution was prepared to call his adopted son, who recently revealed he, too, had been abused, to testify if Sandusky had taken the stand. The prosecution also suggested that, should Sandusky be acquitted, it had more victims, including the adopted son, ready to come forward and press charges.
The verdict marks a milestone in a tragic and at times bizarre story. Sandusky’s sentence has not yet been handed down. But it’s likely he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars.