BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Once considered the best defensive coordinator in college football, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky spoke out in his own defense here Tuesday morning.
But it did little good for the 68-year-old, who was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse in June. At a sentencing hearing in the Centre County Courthouse, Judge John Cleland handed down what is for all intents and purposes a life sentence.
Sandusky's punishment is not less than 30 years and not more than 60 years in state prison. Cleland said he could have sentenced Sandusky to centuries and centuries in prison, but it would not have been practical due to his age.
Cleland said the 30- to 60-year sentence has the unmistakable impact of saying very clearly (Sandusky will be incarcerated) for the rest of (his) life. Sandusky has been given credit for 112 days already served.
Shortly before his sentencing, Sandusky addressed the court from a lectern facing the judge. Clad in an orange prison jumpsuit, he rambled for 15 minutes, often using sports analogies when describing his current situation. He did not admit guilt nor did he express any concern for his 10 victims, but rather focused on himself and his family.
He called the convictions, the worst loss of my life, but not the first. And time and again, he denied ever molesting boys. I did not do these disgusting acts, he said.
Others can take my life, he added. They can make me out as a monster, they can treat me like a monster.
I know I did not do these acts.
He only ever showed emotion near the end of his speech, when he talked of the pain of being removed from his family. His voice cracked as he said his life in jail had been unbearable without the contact of his family. He wrapped up by trying to deliver some sort of message about the value of family, saying understanding that was probably the greatest purpose of this whole thing.
Even before Sandusky spoke, three of his victims addressed the court and a fourth did so through a letter read by prosecutor Joe McGettigan. The victims were emotional and angry.
Victim 4, who was abused in the late 1990s, told Sandusky, I don't forgive you and I don't know if I'll ever forgive you. My only regret is that I didn't come forward sooner.
In a hushed courtroom, he continued, I ask that others who were abused after me would forgive me for not coming forward sooner.
Victim 6 said to Sandusky, You can choose to be in denial,
but I believe you are only fooling yourself. It is time for you to stop making excuses for your behavior.
Victim 5 complained of having flashbacks of (Sandusky's) naked body. He added, The behavior he called horseplay in the shower is something I discovered later in life was sexual abuse.
Sandusky, who did not take the stand at his trial, sat slouched back in his chair as the victims testified Tuesday. At times, he played with his right ear.
Sandusky entered the courtroom at 8:50 a.m. wearing handcuffs. He had been incarcerated at the Centre County Correctional Facility since his convictions. The handcuffs were removed for the hearing.
He was pale and thinner than he had been at trial. When he spoke, his voice was raspy.
Prior to the hearing, Sandusky's family and friends crowded into the four short rows of seats in the right front of the gallery that had been reserved for them. Other family friends slipped into sections reserved for the media.
As a group, they appeared as if they were gathered at a funeral, with hugs, handshakes and uneasy looks on their faces. Sandusky's wife Dottie, dressed in purple, took a seat in the front, surrounded by three of the couple's adult children.
After the sentencing, a reporter approached Dottie Sandusky, asking if she thought the sentence was fair. The couple's son, E.J. Sandusky, barked, You need to leave, right now. Dottie Sandusky calmed the potentially volatile situation by saying, I don't have any comment.
Otherwise, there was very little emotion shown in the family section during or after the sentencing.
Minutes before the trial, four of Sandusky's eight known victims quietly entered the courtroom. They sat on the opposite side from Sandusky's family.
Sandusky will remain in the Centre County jail for 10 days before being transferred to the state prison in Camp Hill, Pa., for processing.
Also Tuesday, the court found Sandusky to be a sexually violent offender. That comes into play with how and where he will ultimately be housed in the state prison system.
Sandusky did not oppose the findings of the board that suggested he be labeled a sexually violent predator but maintained his innocence on all charges filed against him.