BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Jerry Sandusky will learn what penalty a judge considers appropriate for the 45 counts of child sexual abuse for which the former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted in June.
The sentencing hearing before Judge John Cleland on Tuesday was scheduled to begin with a ruling on whether or not Sandusky qualifies as a sexually violent predator under Pennsylvania’s version of Megan’s Law.
Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola said “it’s as certain as certain can be” that Sandusky will address Cleland and assert his innocence before he is sentenced.
“What I anticipate he’ll say is he’s innocent,” Amendola said outside the courthouse Monday afternoon, before a closed-door hearing to iron out logistics and other remaining issues.
Amendola said he did not expect any others to speak on Sandusky’s behalf, although friends and family members — including his wife, Dottie — have written letters of support. Dottie Sandusky plans to attend the hearing, he said.
Given the number of charges, the serious nature of his crimes and his age, the 68-year-old Sandusky faces the likelihood of a sentence that will send him to state prison for the rest of his life. Sandusky was convicted in June of abusing 10 boys over 15 years, including some attacks inside Penn State athletic facilities.
“The important thing for us is, it starts the appellate process,” Amendola said.
One element of the appeal is expected to be a claim that the defense did not have time to adequately prepare for trial. Sandusky was charged in November, following a lengthy investigation.
Tom Kline, lawyer for a young man who said Sandusky groped him in a shower when he was 12 or 13, said his client plans to read a statement Tuesday.
“He’s going to tell the judge how this has affected him, how it’s been painful and difficult,” Kline said.
Lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan said as many as a half-dozen victims are expected to be heard.
The eight victims who testified against Sandusky at trial described abuse that ranged from grooming and fondling to oral and anal sex. Sandusky did not take the stand, but gave interviews shortly after his arrest in which he declared he was not guilty.
Karl Rominger, another Sandusky defense lawyer, said the sentencing and a related proceeding to determine if Sandusky qualifies as a sexually violent predator under Pennsylvania’s version of Megan’s Law should take less than two hours.
Rominger said a 30-year minimum sentence — which would keep Sandusky behind bars at least until he’s nearly 100 — was probably the most the defense could hope for.
Rominger said on WHP radio that Sandusky knows the judge could impose a longer sentence if Sandusky insists he is innocent, but some offenses carry mandatory minimums that are likely to translate into an effective life sentence.
“Why worry about the niceties of pleasing the court when it won’t change your sentence?” Rominger said.
Along with Sandusky, prosecutors last year also arrested two Penn State administrators and charged them with lying to the grand jury that investigated Sandusky and failing to properly report suspected abuse. Tim Curley, the athletic director on leave, and Gary Schultz, a retired vice president for business and finance, deny the charges and await trial.
The case led to the firing of longtime head football coach Joe Paterno, who died from lung cancer in January, and the ouster of university president Graham Spanier, who remains a faculty member. Eight legal teams that represent at least 20 victims or other potential civil claimants have surfaced, and Penn State has indicated its desire to settle claims out of court.
After Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Sandusky most likely would be sent to Camp Hill state prison. There, he would be tested and evaluated by Department of Corrections personnel, who will determine to which institution he will be sent.
AP writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.
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