Jurors convicted Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child sex abuse Friday, ending his high-profile trial, but opening another painful chapter in which more victims might come forward and Penn State University could find itself the defendant.
Sandusky, 68, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Judge John Cleland revoked bail, so Sandusky will be jailed until his sentencing.
Since his arrest in November, Sandusky has maintained his innocence. But a jury of seven women and five men, many with ties to Penn State, decided otherwise, finding him guilty of all but three of the 48 charges against him.
The jury’s verdict came shortly before 10 p.m. Friday. He was found not guilty of the most serious charge, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of one alleged victim and counts of indecent assault against two others. The three not guilty verdicts aside, the jury found Sandusky guilty on charges related to all 10 victims, including two who have not been identified.
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Sandusky looked down as the jury foreman read the verdict.
The case shocked a community and a country that had become accustomed to college sports scandals, but none like this. The possibility that an assistant football coach and trusted community leader could have abused so many children over so many years without anyone suspecting – or acting on their suspicions – sent a chill down the nation’s spine.
It also called into question the judgment of university officials who learned more than a decade ago of Sandusky’s behavior but failed to report it to police. Two former university officials, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, were charged with perjury in the case, and a third – former Penn State President Graham Spanier – could face charges as well.
Sandusky’s conviction has far reaching implications for Penn State. Many of the assaults took place in campus facilities. The verdict could result in damage awards to the victims in the tens of millions of dollars.
Sandusky’s defense team argued in court that he was a virtuous man who helped children through a charity he founded, and that his accusers embellished or made up stories of child sex abuse to collect generous settlements from Penn State.
Defense attorneys poked holes in the accusers’ testimony, noting inconsistencies and challenging how the frequency and severity of the abuse evolved over time with prodding from police and prosecutors. Jurors heard from numerous character witnesses, including Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, who testified that she never observed inappropriate behavior between her husband and any child.
But jurors also heard from eight young men who were participants in Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile. They testified that Sandusky bought them gifts and meals, took them on trips and gave them football tickets, then sexually assaulted them in locker room showers, in hotel rooms and in Sandusky’s home.
Jurors heard graphic testimony from the young men about how Sandusky began with mild affection, such as bear hugs and kisses on the forehead, and progressed to more sexual contact. They said Sandusky fondled them and performed oral sex on them - and he expected them to do the same. They said he attempted anal penetration with his fingers or his penis. Some were as young as 10 or 11 when the abuse began, and it continued for years.
Jurors also heard from former assistant coach Mike McQueary, who testified that he witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the shower in a campus football building in 2001. He reported the incident to head coach Joe Paterno, but Sandusky was never charged. Paterno told university officials, but they only barred Sandusky from bringing Second Mile children to campus. Neither Paterno nor McQueary followed up on the matter or took it to police.
The McQueary testimony was a sticking point for the jurors, since they did not hear from the victim, who has never been identified. Further testimony from McQueary’s father and a family friend may have muddied the waters. The jurors spent most of the morning Friday reviewing some of that testimony.
Jurors also asked for clarification over another locker room shower incident where the victim did not testify, nor did the retired janitor who saw the assault. That witness lives in a nursing home, and jurors heard from one of his former colleagues instead.
The sequestered jurors were unaware of two additional accusers who came forward in the waning days of the trial – one of them Jerry Sandusky’s 33-year-old adopted son, Matt. Lawyers for Matt Sandusky confirmed Thursday that he was prepared to testify against his father in the trial as a rebuttal witness and that he would have told jurors his father sexually abused him.
An Ohio man said in an interview with NBC on Thursday that Jerry Sandusky had abused him, too, in much the same manner as the eight young men who testified in court. Travis Weaver, 30, already has filed a lawsuit against Sandusky.
Robert Weisberg, a criminal law expert at Stanford University, said he finds it unlikely that prosecutors will bring additional charges on behalf of other accusers. They won conviction on most of the 48 charges against Sandusky. Another trial would be unnecessary, Weisberg said.
“It’s going to seem futile and vindictive,” he said.
The fallout of Sandusky’s arrest, trial and conviction tarnishes the reputation of a university that most considered above board, said John Thelin, an education professor at the University of Kentucky and the author of books and articles on college sports scandals.
“The irony is that Penn State got so much mileage out of being clean,” Thelin said. “It’s going to be a lasting toll on the institution and its self-confidence.”
The impact of Sandusky’s arrest was felt immediately last fall when the Penn State board of trustees abruptly fired both Spanier and Paterno, its beloved head football coach of 46 years.
Paterno was never charged in the Sandusky case, and he never got to testify in the trial. But before the 85-year-old icon died of lung cancer in January, he said he regretted not doing more.
Other college football scandals last year cost coaches their jobs, but Thelin said the Penn State scandal may have been a watershed moment.
“Successful coaches are some of the most untouchable figures in American life,” he said. “I wonder if this will alter that.”
Chip Minemyer and Mike Dawson of the Centre Daily Times contributed to this story.