BELLEFONTE, PENNSYLVANIA – Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, after a judge sentenced him Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison for sexually abusing boys entrusted into his care.
Judge John Cleland ordered Sandusky, 68, to spend no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison — meaning he is not eligible for parole for 30 years. He is being given credit for 112 days already served.
Sandusky faced a maximum of 400 years in prison for dozens of charges stemming from his sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period. He was convicted in June.
During Tuesday’s hearing, some of Sandusky’s victims addressed the court, while others had statements read by prosecutors, all in an effort to persuade the judge to impose a harsh sentence.
“The pain is real and it will be inside me forever,” said a man identified as Victim No. 5.
He added that he will never forget the image of Sandusky “forcing himself on me and forcing my hand on him.”
Another victim, No. 6., described the “deep wounds” that left him praying for help. “It’s time for you to admit your sins,” he said.
But Sandusky did the opposite.
“I did not do these disgusting acts,” he told the court several times, calling his situation “the worst loss of my life.”
“I will cherish the opportunity to be a candle for others,” he said, adding that “somehow, some way, something good will come out of this.”
Sandusky addressed the court for about 13 minutes. His wife, Dottie, had tears in her eyes.
The judge acknowledged Sandusky’s “positive work” — an apparent reference to his charity for young people — but said it served only to hide his true character.
“All the qualities that make you successful concealed your vices,” Cleland said. “This, in my view, makes you dangerous.”
He also noted the long-term damage Sandusky inflicted on his victims.
“This crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but their psyche and souls.”
Some victims “have had their innocence taken” and “their sense of community shattered,” Cleland said.
The judge also addressed the victims: “The fact that you were assaulted is no cause for shame… It is for your courage that you will be remembered.” And, he said, they will heal.
After the sentencing, defense attorney Joe Amendola insisted that if the team had had more time to prepare for the trial, Sandusky would have been acquitted.
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Cleland also designated Sandusky as a sexually violent offender, which will partially determine where he will be housed in prison, and which programs he will be required to participate in, according to Jean Casarez of HLN’s “InSession.” Sandusky told the judge he did not oppose the status, but maintained his innocence.
One of his attorneys told CNN before the hearing that Sandusky’s legal team would not contest the classification, but would stipulate that they disagree with it.
Sandusky entered the courthouse Tuesday wearing a red jumpsuit with a bullet-resistant vest underneath. Though he was handcuffed, he clutched a manila envelope and smiled briefly as he got out of a police vehicle. His wife, Dottie, arrived in the parking lot moments earlier.
After the sentencing decision was announced, the university’s president released a statement.
“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said. “While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”
A day before the hearing, Sandusky pleaded his case in an audio statement leaked to the media in which he protested his innocence and insisted he was falsely accused.
“They could take away my life, they could make me out as a monster, they could treat me as a monster, but they can’t take away my heart,” the former assistant coach said in the recording. “In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts.”
He accused the judge of bringing the case to trial too quickly, the victims of conspiring together, and the attorneys of trying to make money in future civil suits.
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Tom Kline, an attorney for the person identified in court as Victim No. 5, called Sandusky’s recording “preposterous.”
“If you are to believe Mr. Sandusky, then we have the grand conspiracy, which his lawyers attempted to play out in the court, which involved 10 young men, a janitor, Mr. (Mike) McQueary, the press, the lawyers and everyone else who’s involved,” Kline told CNN.
“The fact of the matter is that there was no collusion whatsoever. My client came forward only after there was a knock on the door by the police, which led him to a grand jury room. He had never spoken to anyone. He told his story.”
McQueary, a former Penn State assistant football, testified that he saw Sandusky in a shower with an underage boy. He filed a whistleblower lawsuit last week against the university, according to a court document from Centre County, Pennsylvania.
Sandusky co-counsel Karl Rominger said of his client’s audio recording, “If he wants to say that, God bless the First Amendment.”
Penn State University’s ComRadio first aired the audio clip on its website Monday evening.
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It has been nearly a year since the Penn State scandal erupted, leading to the firing of iconic head football coach Joe Paterno and the ouster of the university’s longtime president, Graham Spanier.
Jurors determined in June that Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999, used his access to university facilities and his foundation for under-privileged youth to sexually abuse the boys.
On June 22, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse, ranging from corruption of minors to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, which were laid out in graphic testimony by his accusers over the course of the less-than-two-week trial.
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During the trial, which garnered national attention and cast a shadow on Penn State’s heralded football program, the 23-year-old Victim No. 4 testified that he was only 13 when Sandusky sexually abused him in a university shower.
That account is separate from a 2001 incident that McQueary testified about, saying he saw the former coach pressed up against the back of a boy in the shower room of the Lasch Football Building.
Prosecutors described how Sandusky showered with the boy, using locker room “soap fights” as a pretext for abuse.
Sandusky’s attorneys argued that the jury’s opinions in the case were tainted by a prosecution reference to a disturbing interview their client did with NBC’s Bob Costas prior to the trial.
But CNN legal contributor Paul Callan called Sandusky’s audio statement Monday night another “horrible mistake” akin to the Costas interview and one that likely wouldn’t sit well with the judge.
“If Sandusky wanted to give a press interview and tell his side of the story after sentencing, believe me, everyone is looking to talk to him,” Callan said. “So why wouldn’t you wait, do this in a dignified way, hope for the lowest possible sentence and then take your case to the public?”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Less than a month after Sandusky’s conviction, former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his university-funded report that blamed Paterno, Spanier, suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz for taking part in a cover-up to avoid bad publicity.
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Freeh also said Paterno could have stopped the attacks had he done more, though neither McQueary, Sandusky nor Paterno — who died in January — were interviewed by his investigators.
Attorneys for Spanier blasted the review, calling it a “blundering, indefensible indictment” and “a flat-out distortion of facts” that was “infused with bias and innuendo.”
In July, the NCAA imposed sanctions against Penn State, including a $60 million fine, scholarship reductions, the vacating of 112 wins of the football team, five years’ probation and a bowl ban for four years.