Ninety days from now, when Senior McKean County Common Pleas Judge John M. Cleland sentences disgraced, convicted, child-sex abuser Jerry Sandusky, we will not hear Judge Cleland use the phrase, death penalty. But that’s exactly what Sandusky will suffer. After the three months and change he spends wearing the unfashionable prison jumpsuit of Bellefonte’s Centre County Jail, he’ll be incarcerated in another institution, likely one with heavily restrictive security—for the rest of his life.
During his initial stay there, as is custom with convicted, high-profile pedophiles, prison officials will initially afford Sandusky protection from other inmates. Historically, even the most violent and depraved convicts loathe prisoners they know are doing their time for sexually abusing children. Sandusky will have protective custody, but not for long, and his probability of survival without experiencing intense physical, psychological and emotional abuse is scant at best. Press outlets worldwide are already reporting that Sandusky was greeted by his fellow inmates singing the bastardized Pink Floyd lyric, “Teacher, leave those kids alone.” Once Jerry Sandusky is released into the general, prison population, his welfare—and his life—will long be in grave danger.
reporters Michael S. James and Dan Harris documented in their August 26, 2003 article, “Prison is ‘Living Hell’ for Pedophiles,” that a high percentage of prison officials believe, if there is a social hierarchy among criminals based on the nature of their crimes, that “child molesters and informants” occupy the absolute lowest class. This breed of criminal is most detested and most overwhelmingly disrespected by prison populations.
In an interview James conducted with Margot Bach, spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections, Bach told him, “‘if you take out a sex offender like this former priest [the late John Geoghan] in Massachusetts, maybe the person who took him out thought he’d make a name of himself.’” Bach went on to say, “‘taking [a pedophile] out would gain [the killer] a lot more respect among the other inmates.’”
Defrocked Catholic priest John Geoghan spent his first night behind bars on January 18, 2002. ABC reported Geoghan was strangled dead by 37-year-old, convicted murderer Joseph Druce just 19 months later. On Monday, August 24, 2003, two days after Geoghan’s murder, Worcester County, Massachusetts District Attorney John Conte told a crowd of reporters that Druce, “looked upon Father Geoghan as a prize” and had planned his murder for more than a month before executing his plot.
Jerry Sandusky’s 45 sex crimes will win him no favor in the prison world. In fact, he’ll likely continue to experience the opposite.
Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
staff writer, reported in his article, “Sandusky Guilty on 45 counts,” of June 23, 2012, that shortly after 9:30 PM on June 22nd—with just two days spent deliberating—7 women and 5 men found former Penn State University assistant football coach Gerald Arthur Sandusky guilty of sexually assaulting at least 10 children over a period of at least 15 years. The confident, unanimous jury acquitted him on just 3 counts. From 1994 to 2009, Sandusky met, befriended and courted typically troubled, local, pre-teen boys with Penn State University football tickets—considered a golden commodity anywhere near University Park, PA.
As reporter Kevin Johnson wrote on June 13, 2012, in USA Today
’s, “Alleged sexual abuse victim says Sandusky threatened him,” after allowing a short period for familiarity, most often developing relationships with male children through his The Second Mile charity, a non-profit organization designed to assist wayward, impoverished and at-risk youth, the former coach selected several young boys to accompany him to PSU football games. As a parade of similarly suffering, like-minded witnesses testified during the trial, the local celebrity often held pool parties for his favorites or those he considered easy marks, showered with and fondled many of them after football games and continually invited them to stay with him and his wife at their State College, PA home. One of his victims, now 28, who was molested within the confines of Sandusky’s home, testified that the former coach threatened him, saying he would “never see his family again,” if he alerted anyone to Sandusky’s sexual assault.
Evidence against Sandusky’s innocence, gleaned from the testimony of victims and other witnesses, piled up quickly in front of the jurors. Johnson reported that Judge John Cleland overruled lead counsel Joseph Amendola and the Sandusky defense team’s hearsay objection to the testimony of Penn State custodian Ronald Petrosky, suggesting that because Petrosky’s co-worker James Calhoun could not serve as a witness for health reasons, and because of his shocking reaction to what he saw in the PSU Football showers, the law allowed a rare exception to the hearsay rule.
Calhoun had recounted for Petrosky vivid details of the scene he witnessed, involving Sandusky and a young boy showering in the PSU Football facility near the university’s Beaver Stadium in 2000. Calhoun told Petrosky that he watched momentarily, awe-struck with horror—paralyzed—while Sandusky “lick[ed] [the boy’s] privates.” Johnson wrote, Petrosky testified that Calhoun came to him in sheer panic and immediately confided the perverse nature of Sandusky’s sexual assault.
Calhoun told Petrosky that he had “‘just witnessed something [he would] never forget the rest of [his] life.’” While James Calhoun himself had never met Jerry Sandusky, Petrosky testified that he watched the former coach leave the showers with a young boy, just moments before he spoke with Calhoun. Unfortunately, this victim has not been identified by law enforcement. Petrosky later said he “thought [Calhoun] was going to have a heart attack,” because of his entirely unnerved condition after witnessing the assault.
Another witness, a 23-year-old victim, recounted on June 13, 2012, a similar experience, detailing the sordid events of his relationship with the former coach. He testified that Sandusky quickly befriended him, offered tickets to PSU football games on several occasions and, on at least one of them, abused him in Penn State Football’s showers in 2001. He told the jury, “‘I felt his body on my back,’” while illustrating in detail the disturbing extent of Sandusky’s aggressive advance, saying that his abuser left him no room to escape.
The New York Times
’ Richard Pérez-Peña, in his June 21, 2012 article, “Sandusky’s Adopted Son, Claiming Abuse, Offered to Testify at Trial,” documented what Matthew Sandusky’s legal counsels told reporters of his intent to testify against his adoptive father. His lawyers said their client “‘had been abused by Sandusky’” and would publicly speak to that abuse, if given the opportunity. The prosecution never called Matt Sandusky to the stand, and the jurors didn’t learn he planned to testify until after the verdict.
In the June 23, 2012 article, “Juror Says Panel Had Little Doubt on Sandusky’s Guilt,” New York Times staff writers Joe Drape and Nate Taylor reported, Sandusky lead attorney Joe Amendola “conceded that [Matt Sandusky’s] disclosure had kept his client off the witness stand.” Legal experts around the world concluded, well before the trial, that Jerry Sandusky’s testimony might be the only effective defense mechanism his team could possibly apply in court, but Matt Sandusky, a victim himself, stood up for the welfare of all Sandusky’s victims and prevented that from happening.
But, considering the convicted former coach’s failed, first, public attempt to clear his name, the likelihood that he might have somehow saved his freedom on the witness stand is nil. There’s little doubt that perhaps the most damning evidence used against Jerry Sandusky in his 11-day trial—lightning-fast by PA jurisdictional standards—came directly from Sandusky himself, long before his trial date. Judge Cleland allowed the admission of the defendant’s 10-minute interview with NBC’s Bob Costas on weekly news magazine, Rock Center. The Costas interview, Sandusky’s first after his November 5, 2011 arrest, was reportedly an ill-advised legal stunt (now, disastrous blunder), authorized by Amendola.
The plan backfired entirely when Costas asked Sandusky simply, “Are you sexually attracted to underage boys?” Perhaps scrambling for time to think, Sandusky regurgitated the question, “Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?” Then Sandusky paused nervously, seemingly searching for a publicly acceptable truth. He may have sealed his fate by failing to respond with what should have been a normal, reflex reaction. Instead, Sandusky scrambled, and the court of public opinion adjudged him guilty then and there, on November 27, 2011, nearly 7 months before trial. They were a few uncertain moments, time enough for Sandusky to search for his true internal nature and perhaps realize he had no idea what that might be. The hesitation was an easily discernible slip by a normally obsessively calculating man whom experts in the psychology community have deemed a brilliant, textbook sociopath.
In an interview conducted by Sandusky’s hometown newspaper, the Washington, PA Observer-Reporter
, published in staff writers Denise Bachman and Karen Mansfield’s “Childhood friends wonder if they really knew Jerry Sandusky,” friend and former high-school classmate Bryan Pizzi said of the convicted child-sex offender’s Rock Center slip, “That pause killed him.” Pizzi may have been perfectly accurate. Likewise, his next comment, “I think he believes he didn’t do anything wrong,” is probably the defining single-sentence commentary of the entire Sandusky child-sex scandal.
Another former Sandusky classmate and four-sport, Washington High School teammate Bob Stock told the Observer-Reporter, “Either he's in a huge state of denial, or he doesn't think he did anything wrong. I had dinner in May with him. I remember asking him about the allegations related to the grand jury. He said his attorney was hoping it was all going away, that they would sue for defamation of character.”
Even after the jury returned their not-so-stunning, guilty verdict, after the booming cheers of a more than 200-person crowd outside the Centre County Common Please Court Friday night, Sandusky looked shell-shocked, as if he had no idea what was happening. Perhaps somewhere deep inside him he knew exactly what he had done and every one of the dozens of reasons why it was so despicably, egregiously wrong. But, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jon Schmitz reported in his Saturday article, when one particularly vocal member of the boisterous crowd of Sandusky detractors outside the courthouse yelled, “‘rot in hell’” as he passed, Sandusky immediately responded by shaking his head for noticeably more than a few moments.
Because most of his crimes carry weighty, minimum sentences, inmate number 12-0529, once known as Gerald Arthur Sandusky, will never again experience freedom. Judge Cleland has ultimate discretion over the exact length of Sandusky’s prison sentence, but there is no chance that this—perhaps unknowing—sexual deviant who manipulated, threatened and continually assaulted 10 or more young boys over a period of at least 15 years, will never take another step or breathe another breath or speak another word as a free man.
All that he’ll do now—all that he can do—is spend years coming to truly know himself and the scale of his abhorrent crimes, repent and beg forgiveness that may never come.
It is seemingly impossible for an individual who earned a college and master’s degree in just over four years from Penn State University—a man whom his high school and college classmates remember as an all-study, no-play, high-achieving scholar, a blue-collar; hardworking; Washington boy, raised in a strict Roman Catholic home by two, upstanding and endlessly charitable parents—not to know that sexually abusing young boys is not simply a heinous crime but also one of the two most egregious sins committable by mankind.
But it may be the truth, and, if it is, there is only one Force in the universe with the power to get through to Jerry Sandusky, single Fountain of truth capable of making him understand the wretched, flawed fabric within his broken soul.
For those who would judge him a monster and move on, blindly feeling justice has been, take a moment to think of Dottie Sandusky, his wife of 46 years, his adopted and foster children, his extended family and his oldest friends. What man have they known? How have they suffered, and how will they suffer indefinitely? Which memories and conversations and conclusions will they question for the rest of their lives?
Sandusky is a 45-time
, convicted sexual abuser of children. But are we to believe that he knew exactly what he was doing and exactly why for all the years he perpetrated these horrendous crimes? It would be easier on all of us if we could just accept that. How will history remember him? Should we even bother to care? Is he just a mad, sexual-predator sociopath? Is he a critically mentally and emotionally disturbed shell of a man, one beyond even the finest, most experienced, professional help? Is he both?
Most of the United States—most of the world—believes that if Sandusky dies in prison—a veritable certainty—he’ll be reaping exactly what he sowed. But, if this man, in reality, has no idea why he’s petering out his meager, inextricably destroyed existence behind the unrelenting, steel bars of an 8-by-8-foot cage, what have we accomplished? We believe that justice has been served.
Yet, if this convicted pedophile, in fact, cannot comprehend that he has done wrong, that he has irrevocably blackened his soul and shattered so many others by his sinful, unimaginable acts, perhaps there are places where he might devote his time to reaching that conclusion, institutions capable of reforming his mind to realize the catastrophic breadth and profound degree of his inhuman crimes and the unassuageable, perhaps unforgiveable—the inexorably evil
—wounds and pain and grief he has caused.
, in its “Childhood friends,” published the words of Sandusky’s boyhood friend and teammate John Liptak. He said, “Being around Jerry was like being around a saint.” Liptak also added this: “If [Sandusky’s guilt] is true, we were all duped.”
In the infinitesimal chance that after these continually corroborated accusations; all the starkly detailed testimony; each clear, credible depiction of every known account from Sandusky’s decades of aggressive, psychopathically manipulative pedophilia, Gerald Arthur Sandusky himself still
doesn’t know the truth, his many victims—for their crushing, irreparable, reality-shaping scars—unquestionably deserve
to see the day when he does.