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Sandusky admits he 'horsed around,' but insists he's innocent

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:24 PM EST, Tue November 15, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sandusky says Paterno never discussed his behavior with him
  • NEW: His lawyer says, "Jerry Sandusky is a big, overgrown kid" and "a jock"
  • Sandusky admits to NBC, "I have horsed around with kids I have showered" with
  • The ex-coach tells Bob Costas that he's not a pedophile and says he's "innocent"

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky insisted in an interview Monday he is "innocent" of charges that he sexually abused young boys, denying to NBC's Bob Costas that he's a pedophile.

In a telephone interview with NBC's "Rock Center With Brian Williams," Sandusky admitted that some details in the graphic 23-page grand jury report released earlier this month are correct.

"I could say I have done some of those things," he said. "I have horsed around with kids I have showered (with) after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."

Still, Sandusky claimed he has been falsely accused of crimes. When pressed, the 67-year-old Sandusky said the only thing he did wrong was having "showered with those kids."

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Costas asked directly: "Are you sexually attracted to underage boys?"

Sandusky repeated the question, paused, and responded, "No. I enjoy young people."

Asked if then-head football coach Joe Paterno had ever spoken to him about his behavior or expressed disapproval, Sandustry said simply, "No."

And asked if he felt guilty over the spreading fallout that has affected the university and prominent university figures including the fired Paterno, Sandusky responded, "I don't think it was my fault. I obviously played a part in this ... I shouldn't have showered with those kids. That's what hits me the most."

Sandusky's lawyer, Joe Amendola, said Monday night that showering with children does not equate automatically to sexual assault.

"Jerry Sandusky is a big, overgrown kid. He's a jock," Amendola told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "The bottom line is jocks do that -- they kid around, they horse around."

Sandusky was arrested on November 5, after the release of the grand jury report detailing alleged crimes that he committed between 1994 and 2009. Some of those allegedly happened on Penn State's campus, including one witnessed by then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary in 2002.

McQueary told Paterno what he had seen, and Paterno then alerted then-athletic director Tim Curley, but law enforcement didn't learn of the alleged incident until years later.

In the interview with NBC's Costas, Sandusky flatly denied that McQueary witnessed what has been described in some accounts as Sandusky's rape of a young boy. He said instead that he and the boy were in the shower, "snapping towels" and engaging in horseplay.

Regarding the 2002 incident, Amendola said "the kid was messing around and having a good time" in the shower with Sandusky, adding that McQueary felt "uncomfortable" upon seeing it. He denied the more graphic details offered in that and other allegations, claiming that the prosecution's case lacked sufficient evidence and witnesses.

"They have throwing everything they can throw up against the wall," Amendola said of prosecutors' case. " And they're saying, (out of) all these accusations, some of them have to be true. But when you take it apart, they don't even have victims in several of their cases."

After Sandusky was charged this month with 40 counts of sexually abusing children, Judge Leslie Dutchcot freed him on $100,000 bail, against the wishes of prosecutors.

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A biography of Dutchcot posted on the website of the law firm Goodall & Yurchak lists her as a volunteer for Second Mile. It is not clear whether Dutchcot currently has any affiliation with the organization.

CNN tried to contact the judge but has not received a response.

School trustees fired university President Graham Spanier and Paterno last week on the heels of Sandusky's arrest, while McQueary was put on administrative leave.

And on Monday, in an indication of the scandal's fallout spreading beyond Penn State, U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Alana Garas said that the U.S. Navy secretary recommended that Spanier "be removed from the board of advisers to the presidents of the Naval Postgraduate School and Naval War College."

Also on Monday, the board of directors for the charity that Sandusky founded -- Second Mile -- announced that its CEO had resigned. The CEO of 28 years, Jack Raykovitz, a licensed psychologist, "and the board believe this is in the best interests of the organization."

David Woodle, the board's vice chairman, will take over day-to-day operations.

Saying that the "safety and well-being of the children" is central to its mission, the board announced it will conduct an internal investigation and make "recommendations regarding the organization's future operations. We hope to have those findings by the end of December."

The organization vowed to cooperate fully with the state attorney general's investigation.

Sandusky molested young boys after developing close relationships with them through Second Mile, according to the grand jury report.

The group said Sandusky has not been involved with its children since he told officials in November 2008 he was being investigated over "allegations made against him by an adolescent male."

Sandusky and his wife were a host family through another charity, the New York-based Fresh Air Fund, which sends inner-city children to volunteer families and camps in non-urban locales, spokeswoman Andrea Kotuk said. She added that the charity isn't yet sure when the Sanduskys were hosts, saying workers there were reviewing records and cooperating with authorities in Pennsylvania.

On November 7 -- two days after Sandusky's arrest -- the ex-wife of Sandusky's adopted son filed a petition for "temporary emergency modification of custody," according to a filing by the woman's lawyer Justine F. Andronici.

Jill Jones asked that her ex-husband, Matt Sandusky, "not permit the children to be around Jerry Sandusky and that the children not be taken to Dorothy and Jerry Sandusky's residence." The document claims that Matt Sandusky took the children to his parents' home on the day before the request was filed.

The Sanduskys' neighborhood has been affected as well, with the road to his home blocked off and private property signs up on his lawn after police said a cinder block was thrown through a window there.

Prosecutors: Coach went from mentor to predator

Since Sandusky was freed, an elementary school bordering his home has taken steps to ensure student safety. Sandusky's backyard is next to the playground at Lemont Elementary School.

When he was released on bail, Sandusky, the former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator, was told not to go near children.

State College Area School District Superintendent Robert J. O'Donnell told The Patriot-News newspaper by e-mail that the school principal "has taken additional administrative action to ensure our children are safe." O'Donnell didn't say what steps were taken.

On Sunday, Melissa and Carl Anderson, the parents of two little boys who live near the school, questioned why he was out on bail.

"It baffles my mind," Melissa Anderson said.

"The presumption of innocence -- we all like to believe in that and we do in this country -- but I think there's a level of protection that a neighborhood and community is entitled to," Carl Anderson said.

The Andersons were once such fans of the coach that they own an autographed, limited-edition copy of his book, "Touched -- The Jerry Sandusky Story."

"For me ... it alternates between anger and sadness," Carl Anderson said of his sentiments now. "It really is a loss of wholesale community innocence."

How Paterno can promote healing

Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz have been charged with failing to report the abuse to authorities and misleading investigators. Prosecutors determined they had a legal duty to report the alleged abuse, but not McQueary and Paterno.

On Monday, the Big Ten Conference announced that Paterno's name is being pulled from the football championship trophy to be awarded next month at the conference's first championship game in Indianapolis, Indiana.

"The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. "We believe that it's important to keep the focus on the players and the teams that will be competing in the inaugural championship game."

The trophy was going to be named after both Paterno, the winningest coach in top-level college football history, and Amos Alonzo Stagg, a founder of the Big Ten. It will now be called the Stagg Championship Trophy.

New Penn State President Rodney Erickson, meanwhile, tried to help his school move on Monday -- after a week that he said "tested the character and resilience of the Penn State community."

In a statement on the school's website, Erickson said he wanted to say "how proud of I am" of the school. He cited a candlelight vigil for abuse victims that thousands took part in Friday night and the Penn State-Nebraska football game on Saturday, which included a moment of silence.

"Today, we are back to class and the business of running this university," he wrote.

"Collectively, we need to show the nation and world that Penn State cares, and that Penn State is a community of individuals committed to moving forward with a shared sense of purpose."

CNN's Mary Snow and Sarah Hoye reported from State College; Josh Levs, Monte Plott and Dana Ford from Atlanta; and Barbara Starr from Washington.

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