Three molestation victims confront Jerry Sandusky at his sentencing
Another writes a statement as does the mother of a fifth victim
Sandusky speaks but admits nothing and doesn't apologize
He is sentenced to 30 to 60 years in a scandal that rocked Penn State
The young man locked eyes with Jerry Sandusky in a packed courtroom Tuesday and stared him down. He’d waited a long time for this moment.
“You were the person in my life who was supposed to be a role model,” he seethed angrily at the man convicted of sexually violating him and nine other boys. “I can’t begin to express how this has screwed up my life. Because of you, I trust no one and I will not allow my own child out of my sight for fear of what might happen to him.”
He is known as Victim No. 4. He is 29 years old now.
When he was 11 or 12, he was the coach’s favorite. Sandusky told the boy many times that he loved him.
He took him to places most kids only dream of going: inside the Penn State football team’s locker room, where he dressed up in the uniforms of star players three times his size; to the sidelines at game time, where sports network cameras captured him by Sandusky’s side; to bowl games and banquets, where he was treated like the team mascot.
The attention made the boy feel special and important, but it came at a terrible price. Sandusky, Penn State’s legendary defensive coordinator, was a serial child molester and the thing that brought them together, Sandusky’s Second Mile charity was, in the words of the prosecutor, “a victim factory.”
For years, the boy pushed dark thoughts to the back of his mind. He kept his secret, believing he was the only one. He didn’t come forward when the Sandusky investigation began three years ago. But police combed through the coach’s 2000 autobiography, “Touched,” searching for potential victims and tracked him down.
Cpl. Joseph Leiter of the Pennsylvania State Police knocked on his door early in 2010. By then he was a young man with a son of his own.
“Go away,” he said.
He was “very, very reluctant to talk,” Leiter recalled during Sandusky’s trial. “I remember he curled up in the fetal position at the end of his couch.”
And he was “shaking and distraught” when he walked into the state police barracks a few weeks later, finally willing to talk, said his attorney, Ben Andreozzi.
“He viewed Jerry as a father figure, and it’s been extremely difficult for him to talk publicly about this,” the lawyer said.
No. 4 was perhaps the most devastating witness against the man he called “Jer.” He’d kept photographs and the gifts Sandusky gave him – snowboards, a drum set, ice hockey gear, team jerseys, sweats, goggles, shoes, an Orange Bowl watch, game balls and other memorabilia – as well as cards and letters in which Sandusky poured his heart out in his most unguarded moments.
The boy’s picture was in Sports Illustrated and Sandusky’s biography. He starred in football training videos, demonstrating the moves that made Penn State famous as “Linebacker U.”
For a while, he got to be one of the cool kids. Sure, others teased him about Sandusky “all the time,” he’d later say, but he’d just brush that off as jealousy.
“They’re making things up like, oh, you know, you’re being molested by Jerry and you’re his little butt buddy and all these kinds of things, you know?” he testified at Sandusky’s trial. “I’m sure they’d switch places with me in a heartbeat, but they’re just jealous. You know how kids are.”
As a teenager, he kept his secret buried deep. “If I had ever said anything and it had got out, it would have just been so much worse. I mean, I denied it forever. Forever.”
The five years he spent with Sandusky weren’t just about an older man’s roving hand squeezing a boy’s knee in the car, furtive groping and soapy bear hugs in the shower, or even the eventual, inevitable sex. It was a relationship, say experts who work with sex offenders and their victims.
For Sandusky, it might even have been a love affair. But for No. 4, it was a violation, a betrayal that will take a lifetime to get over. He took a giant step in the recovery process in court Tuesday, his lawyer said. He gave Sandusky a piece of his mind.
But if he was hoping for an apology, none was forthcoming from a man who insisted to the end that he was the victim. And without an apology, or even an acknowledgment, there can be no forgiveness.
“I don’t forgive you for what you did,” No. 4 said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you, but I hope that the others who were abused after me will forgive me for not coming forward sooner.”
Sandusky: ‘I’ve been me’
It’s official: Sandusky, the 68-year-old retired football coach once considered Joe Paterno’s heir apparent at Penn State, has been formally labeled a “sexually violent pedophile.”
He did not fight the classification Tuesday, which was required under Pennsylvania’s mandatory sex offender reporting rules, known as Megan’s Law. But he didn’t admit it, either. No, far from it.
Sandusky clearly sees himself as the victim of a vast conspiracy at the hands of boys he once mentored, the state attorney general’s office and the powers that be at Penn State.
“They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they can treat me as a monster, but they can’t take away my heart,” he said in a prerecorded jailhouse interview played on the campus radio station on the eve of his sentencing.
“In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged, disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner and that was after marriage.”
To the prosecutor, it was yet another depraved assault by Sandusky on his victims. “He went on the radio and whined about his own pain,” said Joseph McGettigan III, who called out Sandusky’s performance on the radio and again in court as “banal, self-delusional, completely untethered from reality. It was entirely-self-focused, as if he himself were the victim.”
Usually taciturn, the white-haired prosecutor wasn’t finished talking. “Ridiculous,” he added. “An insult to human decency.”
No. 4 had something to say about it as well. “Rather than take responsibility for your actions, you attacked us,” he scolded Sandusky. “You have no morals.”
When Sandusky’s turn finally came to speak in court, there was little insight to be gained from his rambling, 15-minute soliloquy. There was no remorse, no apology, no accounting for his actions, good or bad. He did touch on a range of subjects: how he awoke on his 46th wedding anniversary and “knocked my head” on the cinder-block wall of his tiny cell; how he has “special inmate friends” in jail; how he hopes to be “a candle for others”; how he passes the time behind bars tending to his memories.
Many of those memories seemed disturbingly self-absorbed and childlike.
“I see me throwing thousands of kids up in the air” and tossing hundreds of water balloons, he said. “I see kids laughing and playing, and I see a big, lovable dog licking their faces and I feel warm.”
At other times, he seemed to deliver his own eulogy:
“I’ve forgiven, I’ve been forgiven,” he said. “I’ve comforted others, I’ve been comforted. I’ve been kissed by dogs, I’ve been bit by dogs. I’ve been a fighter, I’ve conformed, I’ve been different. I’ve been me.”
He choked back sobs as he recalled a lesson learned by a grandson at preschool: “You get a crinkly heart when you’re mean to others,” he said, his voice quavering. “You get a big heart when you are kind to others.”
He then returned to the defense table and slid his prepared remarks into a manila envelope.
Some observers said they saw Sandusky smirking. But his expression seemed to be that of a man confused by his legal predicament. In the end, the man who had fooled so many for so long and called himself “The Great Pretender” appeared to succeed only at hoodwinking himself.
“It is this remarkable ability to deceive that marks the pedophile,” said Judge John Cleland, sentencing Sandusky to 30 to 60 years in prison – in effect, for the rest of his life.
“The crime is not only what you did to their bodies,” the judge said to Sandusky, speaking about his victims. “Your crime was also an assault on their psyches and souls.”
The judge offered some comfort to the young men: “The fact that you were assaulted is no cause for embarrassment or shame. As children you were victims of a pedophile. His conduct is no fault of your own. As adults, you have come forward. It is for your courage and not your assault for which you will be remembered.”
’Are you a pedophile?’
How many Sanduskys are out there? The question came up after Sandusky’s arrest, and some variation of it is asked each time a child molestation scandal is exposed in a church, a school, a sports organization – settings where grown men play a role in molding young boys. Those are the cases that grab headlines and get public attention.
The prestigious Johns Hopkins University recognizes that it is a question worth asking. Earlier this week, the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health opened the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. The mission of the privately funded center, the first of its kind, is to treat child sexual abuse as a national public health issue.
Elizabeth Letourneau, a professor at Hopkins who heads the center, said people don’t want to believe that child molesters walk among us, which makes reporting and prosecuting their crimes more difficult.
“We tend to view sex offenders as ‘monsters,’ and this misapprehension blinds us to the red flags that might be right in front of our eyes,” Letourneau said. “The people we know, love and respect – the people in our families, our social circles, our communities – are not monsters. So when we see them acting inappropriately with a child, or if a child discloses inappropriate behavior, we tend to ignore or minimize the behaviors.”
That sounds a lot like what happened at Penn State in 2001 when assistant coach Mike McQueary reported that he saw Sandusky in the shower with a young boy and heard sexual slapping sounds. Had Sandusky been beating the boy with his fists, McQueary and others would know exactly what to do. But because the encounter involved a possible sex act, McQueary doubted himself and what he had seen.
And it certainly was the case for some of Sandusky’s victims, whose complaints were dismissed by others. One was told by a guidance counselor that he was lying, that Sandusky would never do such a thing. When another complained that Sandusky was too “touchy-feely,” a counselor told his mother not to “bother” such an important man.
Scientists don’t yet know what causes someone to be sexually attracted to children. As prosecutor McGettigan pointed out, with some of Sandusky’s victims his actions did seem to be solely about the sex. But with others, relationships developed and lasted years.
Not so long ago, the common thinking held that pedophiles were people who couldn’t handle adult relationships, or had been sexually molested themselves as children. Experts call that the abused abuser theory, and many now believe it to be mostly hogwash.
They suspect pedophiles are simply born that way, neurologically hard-wired before birth, said James D. Cantor, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto who works with and studies offenders at the Sexual Behaviors Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
A 2008 study of the brain scans of pedophiles, he said, showed certain traits linked to early brain development: Almost all were male, left-handed and over 30, and they tended to post lower than average IQ scores. They had thinner connective tissue – “white matter” – between the pockets of “gray matter” in their brains.
Not every pedophile becomes a child molester, Cantor pointed out. Many try to fit within society; some even enter sexless “companion” marriages. Most people view child molesters as creepy strangers who lure children in schools, parks, arcades and other public places. That also isn’t true.
“Everybody’s after the stranger danger idea, but the perpetrator or potential perpetrator is much more likely to be very close to home, or even within the home,” Cantor said. “It can be a relative, a friend, a neighbor – someone in your inner circle. Someone you’d never suspect.”
Someone the child knows, who strikes up a close relationship.
“It’s not the relationship between equals, but it is most certainly a relationship,” Cantor said.
While prosecutors might use the word “grooming” to describe how a pedophile ingratiates himself by lavishing attention and gifts, to the pedophile it feels more like courting, he added.
“From the point of view of the pedophile, it was the opportunity to spend time with somebody. There’s a feeling of avuncularity, and that feels positive and good,” Cantor explained. And then a pedophile’s feelings turn romantic. And sexual.
“The emotions that they experience are the same set of emotions the rest of us experience, but those emotions are provoked by adolescents,” he said.
Cantor was not surprised by Sandusky’s awkward response to questions posed by sportscaster Bob Costas, who asked Sandusky if he were sexually attracted to boys. The now famous exchange was played at Sandusky’s trial:
Costas: Are you a pedophile?
Costas: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?
Sandusky: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?
Sandusky: Sexually attracted? You know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.
“They don’t see themselves as monsters,” Cantor explained. “How could their love for someone be bad?”
The boy known as No. 4 came into Sandusky’s life at a time of stress, disappointment and loss for the coach. Sandusky’s “best friend,” his father, had died. And Paterno, who had banged heads with Sandusky since hiring him in 1969, was telling people he was a “knucklehead” and was trying to get rid of him.
The boy also was going through a rough patch, sparring with his stepfather and getting in trouble at school.
Sandusky did not testify at his trial. But his voice was heard through letters he wrote to No. 4. Many contained the same childlike tone heard in court Tuesday: “What was your reaction when you first met me? How did you feel about me then? What is love? What would you miss most if a magician could make me disappear?”
He fondly recalled long car rides during which he’d tell the boy stories. And he waxed sentimental in a birthday card, scrawling a litany of “thank yous” for: “being so warm and friendly! … your special touch! … for trying so much! … being a very best friend! … for all you say and do! … for just being you!”
During the trial, No. 4 never made eye contact with Sandusky as he described their relationship. He said he was 11 or 12 when he started going on outings with him. He was 13 when the first sexual assault took place, and 16 or 17 when he finally ended the relationship.
He had a different memory of those car rides, recalling how he tried to squirm away from Sandusky’s hand, which seemed always to find its place on his knee, “like I was his girlfriend or something.” He said the hand on his knee ” freaked me out like extremely bad. I could not stand it.” He’d push the hand away, and before long it would be back again. “That just drove me nuts.”
And then there were the showers.
“There was soap dispensers beside each one of the showers, and he would pump his hand full of soap and basically throw it,” No. 4 recalled. “I thought it was a game. So I went along with it, which eventually led to him getting a lot closer to me. Like, you know, bear hugging me, grappling me up, these kind of things. And once the soap was on there it led to him more like hugging me and caressing me and him wanting me to, like, wash his body. He wouldn’t just say it. He would just kind of like take his hand, you know, wash his body thing. He would do the same to me.”
They never discussed what was happening. “It was never talked about, ever,” No. 4 said. “You know, it would be more of a glancing over or brushing thing for me.” And, he never told anyone else. “I was too scared to.”
Once, he tried to tell his mother, saying he didn’t want to go with Sandusky. But she dismissed his comments because he had a habit of exaggerating.
“I said, ‘No, you don’t understand.’ And she’s like, ‘Why, what could possibly be going on?’ I said, like, ‘Because I’m pretty sure that he’s gay.’ She was like, ‘Oh, whatever, this is just one of your lies,’ and blew it off.”
As the teenager began to pull away and avoid Sandusky, the coach’s letters seemed to become more desperate, needy and manipulative. At times, he wrote that his two dogs missed the boy as well as Penn State’s players.
“Jer may not be working,” he wrote in one letter after he retired, “but he needs his ‘best friend.’ It doesn’t look real good.” He continued, “Jer understands life and its changes. He’s proud, too proud to beg for a friend, extended family, son,” adding, “Jer wants to be there to the end.”
As the teen neared his 16th birthday, Sandusky wrote, “It’s your song, your choices, your life. I like to fill a small part of it and I will be there if you want. I have believed and stuck up for you.”
When pleading failed, he scolded: “Your youthfulness will disappear. If you cannot care, you will not be able to live up to the expectations. Your so-called best friends will vanish. Happiness will escape your life.”
But the strangest and perhaps most revealing letter may be the one written on Penn State letterhead in which Sandusky compared himself to the movie character Forrest Gump, writing that people like the simple character “are blessed” and signing off as “Forrest Jer.”
“I never gave up because I cared,” he wrote. “I hope that in the back of your mind will be a memory of simple times, hopefully laughter, joy and warm smiles. Try not to forget all those who care. Try to remember canoes, squirt guns, water balloons … miniature golf, Polish soccer, baseball, rugby, football, swimming, studying, golf, volleyball, kickball, soccer, laughing, arguing, crying, caring and so much more fun.”
By then, No. 4 had found a girlfriend. But she kept asking why he never called or visited Sandusky. So he set up a visit that included sharing a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to ease her suspicions about the relationship. It didn’t work, as he explained:
“Basically, my plan was to take my girlfriend there so she could see it was normal and nothing bad had happened. But basically that backfired because the whole time he wanted to be around me and even, like, would be rubbing, like, trying to rub my shoulders and horsing around kind of thing again and she just – she knew.”
’You are only fooling yourself’
The “Sandusky 8,” as the young men who testified became known during the trial, all face a difficult journey. Some are further along the road to recovery than others. Three of the young men spoke at Sandusky’s sentencing, one had a statement read and the others didn’t want to speak publicly. Some never want to see or think about Sandusky again, prosecutor McGettigan said.
No. 1 and his mother have a book coming out at the end of the month. They are likely to reveal their names publicly in television appearances promoting his story. (CNN usually does not identify the victims of sexual assaults by name.)
No. 1 plans to become active in the recovery community, organizers say. He is the victim who launched the investigation in 2008; he had been receiving therapy for about three years. He also has filed a civil lawsuit.
“No words are adequate to describe the pain and misery you caused,” he said to Sandusky in a statement read in court at the sentencing. “I just wanted a childhood like everyone else.” He said Sandusky promised to be a friend and mentor but instead he “humiliated me.” No. 1 spoke of being in “emotional agony,” wracked by anxiety and lack of trust. He said he can’t relax.
“I have been looking over my shoulder for a long time.”
No. 6, whose voice quaked with emotion as he spoke at Sandusky’s sentencing, has found solace in his faith. He graduated from a Bible college before the trial in June and has performed missionary work in Mexico and elsewhere.
“You choose to live in denial of everything you have done,” he told Sandusky. “I believe you are fooling only yourself.” He urged Sandusky to “repent” and seek God’s forgiveness “or there is a bigger judgment to come.”
No. 6, who launched a 1998 investigation that went nowhere, said he has embarked on his “journey of healing,” adding, “I have not yet arrived but I have certainly left.”
Others are having a more difficult time.
In a letter read in court, the mother of No. 9, one of the youngest victims, said he has tried twice to take his life. She blames herself for not protecting her son from Sandusky’s “sick indulgence.” She now questions every parenting decision she has ever made. “Shame on you, Mr. Sandusky, for your narcissistic and selfish acts,” she said. “Not only did you molest him, Mr. Sandusky, you caused him a lifetime of sorrow.”
And then there was No. 4.
Although he was the most powerful witness, he also was among the last to come forward. He is just beginning to deal with the effects of what Sandusky did to him, and the secret he worked so hard to bury for so long.
“Right now it’s really a question of trying to put the pieces back together,” said his attorney, Andreozzi. “This is something that’s going to take years and years.
It is possible to heal from sexual abuse, victim advocates say. No. 4 can begin by forgiving himself for not coming forward sooner, said Chris Anderson, who heads the support group MaleSurvivor.
“The only person who bears responsibility for any of this,” he said, “is Jerry Sandusky.”