BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Jerry Sandusky’s trial in the Penn State scandal opened in graphic fashion Monday with the first witness testifying that the retired coach molested him in the locker room showers and in hotels while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips to bowl games.
The man, now 28 and dubbed Victim 4 in court papers, told the jury about the abuse he said he endured for five years beginning when he was a teenager in the late 1990s.
“I’ve denied it forever,” he testified, looking straight at the prosecutor as Sandusky sat motionless nearby.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts for abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. The former assistant football coach has denied the allegations. His arrest last year shamed the university and led to the ouster of beloved Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and Penn State’s president.
In opening statements, prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III told the jury that Sandusky was a “predatory pedophile” who methodically used his youth charity, The Second Mile, to zero in on fatherless children or those with unstable home lives, plied them with gifts and took advantage of them sexually.
Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola countered that the case is flimsy and that some of the accusers apparently intend to sue and have a financial stake in the case – a preview of the battle to come as the defense tries to undermine the credibility of the young men upon whom the case rests.
Until Monday, none of them had testified publicly, and their identities were shielded. The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes.
Victim 4 spoke calmly and firmly under questioning by the prosecutor and acknowledged he had at first lied to police and even his own attorney about the alleged abuse.
“I don’t even want to be involved now, to be honest,” he said.
The man said he met Sandusky through The Second Mile and said that they began showering together in 1997. What began as “soap battles” quickly progressed to oral sex and other contact, the accuser said, adding that he was 90 or 100 pounds and powerless to resist the advances of the much larger man.
During his opening statement, Amendola said Sandusky’s showering with children was innocuous and part of his upbringing.