Sandusky Recap: One week in, prosecutors pull no punches
Everything you need to know with the first week of the Sandusky trial in the books.
• The Victims. Sandusky is charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse against ten alleged victims over a period of 14 years, beginning in the late 1980s. The prosecution has put eight of the ten alleged victims on the stand to testify against Sandusky, all of whom have maintained that they were molested, raped or otherwise abused by the coach as minors, most of them on multiple occasions. Though they were barred from using pseudonymsin court, none of their real names have been released in the press. In order of testimony:
Victim 4 testified for four hourson Monday that, following tours and workouts in Penn State facilities, post-workout showers included naked bear hugs and wrestling matches that quickly escalated into sexual contact. According to the alleged victim, Sandusky would move the boy's hands over his body, including his genitals, and coerced him into oral sex on at least 40 occasions. "It was basically like, whatever happened there [with Sandusky], never really happened,"Victim 4 said, remembering teasing at school that he was "butt buddies" with the coach. "If I admitted it, it just would have been so much worse."
Once, he said, they were nearly caught by assistant coach Tom Bradley, who entered the shower and stayed until both Sandusky and the alleged victim had left. ("I thought he was suspicious," Victim 4 said.) On another occasion, he said Sandusky's wife nearly interrupted an encounter in a hotel bathroom when he accompanied the team to San Antonio for the 1999 Alamo Bowl. After that, he gradually distanced himself from Sandusky, missing appointed meeting times and ignoring gifts. He only came forward last year after Sandusky was indicted, when his father became suspicious and hired a lawyer.
"It felt cool to get to do these things and hang with the Penn State players. ... And I didn't want to lose someone actually paying attention to me," Victim 4 said. "Jerry was like a father figure to me... and he was nice to me, other than those instances."
Victim 1, now 18 and recently graduated from high school, broke down multiple times during his testimony on Tuesday, in which he described being assaulted and coerced into oral sex in Sandusky's home at the age of 12 or 13. During questioning from Sandusky's defense attorney, Joe Amendola, the alleged victim told prosecutors "make them stop," and challenged Amendola directly: "I'm going to keep telling you the same answer," Victim 1 said. "I want you to stop asking me the same questions over and over."
A former wrestling coach in the alleged victim's hometown, Joe Miller, testified that he once walked in on the boy and Sandusky lying face to face in a weight room. Surprised, Sandusky reportedly said he was demonstrating a wrestling move, and Miller left. "I thought it was peculiar at first," Miller said, especially considering a much larger room usually used for wrestling was right next door. "But then I thought, 'Well, it’s Jerry Sandusky. He's a saint, and what he's doing with these kids is fantastic.' So I didn't think anything more of it."
On Wednesday, Victims 5 and 7 both testified that Sandusky approached them from behind and initiated sexual contact in Penn State locker room showers during the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Both said they were able to escape the coach's grasp and dress without further incident, and never heard from him again. "It was uncomfortable to me, but I wasn't real sure how to handle it," Victim 7 said, referring to Sandusky's alleged attempts to lie in bed with him during sleepovers at Sandusky's house. "I guess I thought, I got to go to these [Penn State] games, so I will push that part to the back of my mind."
Victim 10, also testifying Wednesday, told the jury that Sandusky threatened his family following an incident in the coach's basement which he reportedly pinned the boy to the ground and performed oral sex on him. When the alleged victim "freaked out," he said Sandusky "told me that if I told anybody, I would never see my family again."
Victim 6, now 25 and a recent graduate from a Bible College, testified on Thursday that Sandusky subjected him to an "uncomfortable" shower session in which the coach reportedly tickled the boy ("He said he was the tickle monster"), grabbed him from behind in a bear hug and picked him up to rinse soap from the boy's hair.
Although the alleged victim said he now "feel(s) violated," he also said he was initially upset when his mother questioned him and reported Sandusky to authorities. (See below.) "I did not want to get him in trouble. I still wanted to hang out with him and go to the games," Victim 6 said. "I was a Penn State fan. Anything to do with Penn State, I wanted to be a part of it."
Victim 3, now a 25-year-old National Guardsman, testified Thursday that he was subjected to "pretty frequent" molestation during sleepovers at Sandusky's home from 1998-2001, and during showers. The alleged victim – who initially told police in July 2011 that nothing inappropriate had happened between him and the coach, and that he wanted nothing to do with the investigation – also told the jury that he was devastated when Sandusky made no attempt to contact him after the boy was moved to a group home with foster parents. "I was praying he would call me and get me out of there," Victim 3 said, "but it never happened."
The last alleged victim to take the stand this week, Victim 9, testified Thursday that he was regularly forced to perform oral sex on Sandusky and on several occasions was raped in the coach's basement, where his cries for help went unheard (the alleged victim said he figured the basement must be soundproof) or unheeded. Under cross-examination, Victim 9 told Amendola he never sought medical attention despite attacks that left him bleeding. "[Sandusky] got real aggressive and just forced me into it," he said. "And I just went with it. There was no fighting against it."
• Prior History. The 1998 allegation involving Victim 6 was investigated by Penn State campus police and local law enforcement, and resulted in "a lengthy police report." According to a report issued by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, "Sandusky admitted showering naked with Victim 6, admitted to hugging Victim 6 while in the shower and admitted that it was wrong." According to the mother of Victim 6, who reported Sandusky to authorities when her then 11-year-old son told her they had showered together, the coach told her during the investigation, "I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won't get it from I you. I wish I were dead," while detectives secretly listened to the conversation in another room. Still, the case was dropped without prosecution and no significant action taken against Sandusky, who maintained "emeritus" status and regular access to university facilities after his abrupt retirement the following year.
On Thursday, former Penn State investigator Ronald Schreffler testified that he had been surprised when that investigation closed without charges being brought against Sandusky, and thought dropping the case was a mistake. The district attorney who made the decision not to pursue charges in 1998, Ray Gicar, later disappeared under still-mysterious circumstances in 2005 and was declared legally dead last July.
• McQueary holds his ground. Aside from perhaps Sandusky himself – who likely will not be called to testify – the most anticipated witness was former Penn State quarterback turned assistant coach Mike McQueary, who took the stand on Tuesday to defend his account of witnessing Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in a Penn State shower in 2001. Fending off the defense's questions about discrepancies in his earlier testimony, McQueary insisted that he has "no doubts at all" about what he heard and saw:
"Very much skin-on-skin smacking sound," he said. "I immediately became alert and was kind of embarrassed that I was walking in on something."
He said that he turned and glanced over his right shoulder at a mirror that had a 45-degree angle and saw Sandusky "standing behind a boy who was propped up against a wall." He estimated the boy to be 10 to 12 years old.
He said that the "boy's hands [were] up on the wall. The glance would have taken only one or two seconds. I immediately turned back to my locker to make sure I saw what I saw."
McQueary said he looked directly into the shower and saw Sandusky "standing right up against the back of a young boy" with his arms around his midsection -- "the closest proximity that I think you can be in."
When asked what he saw, McQueary said "the defendant's midsection was moving" subtly.
At that point, McQueary said, he slammed a locker door shut "in an attempt to say 'Someone's here! Break it up!'" then stepped closer to entrance of the shower to confirm that Sandusky had separated from the boy. "We looked directly in each other's eyes and at that time I left the locker room," he said.
McQueary subsequently phoned his father, and met with head coach Joe Paterno the following morning at Paterno's house, where he described what he had seen in less-than-explicit terms. The following week, McQueary met with athletic director Tim Curley and another administrator, Gary Schultz, who then oversaw campus police; Curley later called to tell McQueary the university had looked into it, though Sandusky's status and access to campus facilities remained essentially unchanged. Curley and Schultz were both indicted along with Sandusky last November for failure to report and perjury in their grand jury testimony, and Paterno was fired as head coach a few days later.
• Second-hand account. Another alleged victim, identified in court documents as Victim 8, has not testified. But Judge John Cleland did allow hearsay testimony on Wednesday from a Penn State janitor, Ronald Petrosky, who described a 2000 incident in which he saw "two pairs of legs" in a shower during his nightly cleaning, and later saw Sandusky leave with a boy (Victim 8), both of whom had wet hair. He also told the jury he was approached later the same night by another janitor, Jim Calhoun, who was visibly upset.
"[Calhoun's] face was white and his hands was trembling. I thought he had a medical condition," Petrosky said. "He said, 'Buck' – that's my nickname – 'I just witnessed something in there I'll never forget the rest of my life. The man who just left, he had the boy up against the shower wall licking on his privates.' … I asked Jim if he wanted to call somebody. He didn't. He was afraid, I guess."
Calhoun was reportedly unable to testify himself because he is hospitalized with dementia.
• The Defense. In opening statements on Monday, Amendola freely admitted that "the commonwealth has overwhelming evidence against Mr. Sandusky," but said he planned to challenge witness accounts that may have been coaxed, exaggerated over time or invented for "financial interest":
"The accusers were questioned multiple times," Amendola said. "We believe when they were questioned and initially said nothing happened, the government nagged until they got an answer they wanted to hear. In fact, you'll hear from a couple of people will say they felt it was harassment."
Then, he said, they took Sandusky's good deeds -- motivations, letters and gifts to kids, plus his personal time mentoring them -- and twisted it into a sordid saga of abuse.
"Jerry loves kids so much that he does things none of us would ever dream of doing," Amendola said. "The evidence will show these kids had problems. Over the years, Jerry dealt with hundreds of thousands of kids. There's eight accusers."
During cross-examination, the defense emphasized that several of the accusers (Victims 4, 6 and 9) had continued to have some social contact with Sandusky as adults, long after they claimed the alleged abuse had ended, and one (Victim 7) had written a glowing description of Sandusky as a "kind and caring gentleman" in a scholarship application. Victim 6 reportedly sent Sandusky a Father's Day card in 2009 in which he thanked God for having Sandusky in his life. Others (McQueary, Victim 1) had claimed different dates and significantly varying numbers of encounters with Sandusky during different rounds of questioning. Victim 3 was initially reluctant to implicate Sandusky in any wrongdoing at all.
Less convincingly, Amendola pledged to produce an expert who would testify that Sandusky suffers from histrionic personality disorder, a mental illness that does not fit his alleged behavior and may soon cease to exist as a credible diagnosis in any case.
The defense is expected to begin calling its own witnesses when the trial resumes next week.
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