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Jerry Sandusky Sentenced to at Least 30 Years for Sexual Abuse of Young Boys

October 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
After being convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky appeared in court to receive a sentence of 30 to 60 years in prison, where he will likely spend the rest of his life. Judy Woodruff talks to The Associated Press' Mark Scolforo about the reactions from Sandusky and his victims.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The former football coach who plunged PennStateUniversity into scandal by his sexual abuse of young boys over many years was sentenced today. The judge called his crime a story of betrayal.

Jerry Sandusky wore a red jail jumpsuit and a smile as he entered the Centre County Courthouse this morning. Less than two hours later, the smile was gone after the 68-year-old learned he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan:

JOE MCGETTIGAN, district attorney: I believe that the sentence that the court imposed today was a wise and proper one and that it reflected the seriousness of the defendant’s crimes for the harm that he caused and the need to remove him from society.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sandusky was convicted three months ago on 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 young boys over a 15-year period. In an audio statement that aired Monday on a PennState student radio station, he again insisted he is innocent.

JERRY SANDUSKY: 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. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Going further, he blamed the victims. Today, in court, Sandusky expanded on that theme for some 15 minutes, but Judge John Cleland said his claims of a conspiracy were unbelievable and the prosecutor dismissed Sandusky’s words as ridiculous.

JOE MCGETTIGAN: He displayed deviance, narcissism, a lack of feeling for the pain he caused others and to the end an unwillingness to accept responsibility.

In fact, his statement today was a masterpiece of banal self-delusion, completely untethered from reality.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, defense attorney Joe Amendola insisted Sandusky was the victim of a rush to judgment.

JOE AMENDOLA, attorney for Jerry Sandusky: Today, they may be Jerry Sandusky’s rights. Tomorrow, they may be your rights or they may be your rights.

And you’re going to say, wait a minute, I need more time to do this. I have a defense. I’m innocent. Oh, but everybody thinks you’re guilty, so why the heck waste time? Let’s just get this over with.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sandusky plans to appeal. And that’s not the end of the scandal that shook PennState.

Two college administrators, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, face trial on charges of failing to report Sandusky to the police and lying to a grand jury.

Longtime head football coach Joe Paterno was fired last November and died in January of lung cancer. The NCAA later imposed severe sanctions on the school’s football program.

For more on all this, we turn to Mark Scolforo, who has been covering the story for The Associated Press. He was in the courtroom today.

Mark, thank you for joining us. We know that Jerry Sandusky spoke before the sentence was handed down. What did he say?

MARK SCOLFORO, The Associated Press: Well, he again denied the allegations against him, which he’s consistently done since his arrest.

And he also — he talked about a number of matters. I think largely he was — he reviewed the — sort of the good works he had done through the Second Mile charity and in an attempt to give the judge some idea of the positive side of his life outside these criminal allegations.

He also spoke about his family members that stuck with him. He discussed his life in prison. And he vowed to continue fighting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Did he say anything about the victims?

MARK SCOLFORO: Well, he — not a lot.

I mean, he said that he hoped that this case would somehow generate some positive publicity that would prevent other children from being victimized in the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about the victims? We know that out of the 10, three of them spoke. What was their demeanor and what did they say?

MARK SCOLFORO: Well, one had a very calm demeanor.

The other two seemed nervous, but all three of them talked about the effect that this case had had on them personally, mentioned post-traumatic stress disorder, depression.

And one of them spoke in religious terms and urged Sandusky to accept responsibility for what he had done as a — you know, as something that was inevitable, that was required, I guess, as a matter of his belief.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Was there emotion in the statements?

MARK SCOLFORO: Well, yes.

I mean, Sandusky, toward the end of his statement, his voice cracked somewhat. And the young men also seemed very emotional. I would say that the atmosphere in the courtroom was somber, as I think would be befitting a — this sort of proceeding.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about the judge? When it came time for him to hand down the sentence, what did he say to Sandusky?

MARK SCOLFORO: Well, he spent a lot of time discussing, yes, the technical aspects of the sentence, which was, yes, 30 to 60 years.

But he also — he made reference to a recorded statement that Sandusky — that was released yesterday on a local radio station.

The judge dismissed that as an unbelievable conspiracy theory. And he talked about the damage that this case has done to the — to individuals, the loss of innocence and to a loss of community, and that that — those factored into his thinking in crafting the sentence that he imposed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as he was saying this, Sandusky was — what was Sandusky doing?

MARK SCOLFORO: Sandusky during — I mean, he was watching whoever was speaking. And when the prosecutor was talking, he was sort of — I mean, I guess he was — it would be fairly described as a smirk.

But when the young men were speaking, he was — it was more of a smile. I mean, he was engaged, but — and at one point when his own lawyer was talking, he was chewing his fingernails.

But, besides that, I wouldn’t say that he was, you know, giving a lot of emotion. There wasn’t a lot to read there in terms of body language.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Scolforo, I read that the judge said that, as he was crafting the sentence, he kept in mind one of the victims in the shower who was seen by a janitor. Do we know any more about that?

MARK SCOLFORO: Yes.

That’s — victim eight, as he’s known, that’s a young man who has never been identified. And he was — Sandusky was convicted of attacking him in the shower in an incident that was witnessed by a janitor. Now, the janitor wasn’t able to testify because he’s — I guess had, you know, just medical issues.

And so the testimony that convicted Sandusky came from the janitor’s supervisor. Now, that raises some hearsay legal issues that could potentially be a matter for appellate review.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the judge — go ahead.

MARK SCOLFORO: The judge said that he was — the way he set up the sentence is, some were consecutive, some were concurrent.

Those sentences were all concurrent. And if the charges related to victim nine are thrown out or to go away, it won’t result in any effectively lower sentence for Sandusky.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I also read that the judge told Sandusky he expects him to die in prison.

But, Mark, finally, what’s the reaction there in the community and around PennState?

MARK SCOLFORO: Well, you know, I think, in Central Pennsylvania in general — it’s the heart of PennState country.

And I think there is a lot of concern about the effect that this case has had on Penn State as an institution, both in terms of the — you know, the football team, but also, you know, reputational, that this is something that has sort of caused repercussions for people who had nothing to do with the case or the university’s handling of it.

So, I think there is some feeling that there’s been an unjust tarring of the overall university, you know, in wake of these charges because of the scandal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about towards Sandusky himself?

MARK SCOLFORO: Well, you know, I can’t really say. I have a sense for, you know, a community thought about that. Sandusky has his supporters. They were in the courtroom today.

But, you know, certainly there’s not a — you know, if there’s a strong out-welling of support for Sandusky or against this prosecution, there aren’t a lot of signs of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Scolforo with the AP, with the Associated Press, thank you very much.

MARK SCOLFORO: You’re welcome.