BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Jerry Sandusky’s abuse shattered the formative years of his young victims’ lives. For that, a judge decided Tuesday, he will pay with the waning years of his own.
The former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison Tuesday for the serial sexual molestation of 10 adolescent boys.
The punishment effectively ensures that the 68-year-old will remain incarcerated for the rest of his life, Judge John M. Cleland said.
“It is the ultimate tragedy of this situation that all the qualities that made you so successful as a coach and community leader concealed those vices that let you down,” the judge said, addressing Sandusky at a hearing in Centre County Court. “It is exactly your ability to conceal those vices that, in my opinion, makes you dangerous.”
Sandusky, dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, stood stone-faced as his sentence was read. But in a rambling speech that incorporated sports metaphors, discussion of his sexual relationship with his wife, Dorothy, and comparisons of himself to other sports underdogs like the racehorse Seabiscuit, he vowed to continue efforts to clear his name.
“We’re in the fourth quarter,” he said. “In the fourth quarter, you find out who will stand by you. For those still standing up for me, we will continue to fight.”
Afterward, he was returned to the Centre County jail, where he is expected to stay at least 10 more days before being sent to a state prison processing center near Camp Hill, Pa. There, a decision will be made on where he will serve out his punishment.
Tuesday’s sentence marked a significant milestone in a scandal that turned Sandusky, a nationally famous coach and a revered philanthropist, into one of the most reviled men in America.
At his June trial, at which a jury convicted him of 45 counts of child sex abuse, prosecutors detailed a pattern of abuse in which the former coach targeted boys with absent fathers, gave them access to the Penn State football community, and eventually pressed them for sex.
Eight accusers took the stand. Each told harrowing tales of Sandusky entering their lives as a mentor and father figure through the Second Mile, the charity he founded for underprivileged youth, only to become their predator.
In court Tuesday, several described their continuing struggle to process the abuse they endured.
“I’m troubled with flashbacks of his naked body,” the 26-year-old identified in court documents as Victim 5 told the judge. “The sentencing will never erase what he did to me. It will never erase from my memory his hands on my skin or mine on his.”
Others adopted a more forceful tone in addressing their abuser.
“I grew up in a bad situation, and you made things worse,” said the 29-year-old known as Victim 4. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
In explaining his sentencing decision, Cleland noted the resulting community fallout from Sandusky’s crimes.
In July, the NCAA imposed crippling sanctions on Penn State’s once-revered football program, alleging that several top administrators covered up allegations against him.
Head football coach Joe Paterno and college President Graham B. Spanier both lost their jobs for their handling of the scandal. Paterno died of lung cancer three months later.
“So many people have been personally involved in the issues surrounding this case and its fallout,” Cleland said. “For some, their innocence has been taken; for others, their sense of community has been shattered. All of them have come here looking for justice.”
But as the sentencing closed one chapter of the Sandusky saga, more are still to come.
Two former university administrators – suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz – face trial in January for reportedly failing to notify authorities of earlier allegations against Sandusky and later lying about them to a grand jury.
Four of the former coach’s accusers have filed civil suits against Penn State, with several more expected to follow in the coming months.
Sandusky continued to maintain his innocence of “those alleged disgusting acts” during his speech before the court.
He complained of the isolation of his new life in prison and decried efforts to paint him as a monster, echoing an earlier recorded statement aired by a student-run campus radio station Monday.
In that statement, the former coach insisted without remorse that prosecutors, Penn State, the media and his accusers conspired to put him behind bars at all costs.
In court, Sandusky struck a slightly less defiant, if more peculiar, tone.
“I’ve forgiven, I’ve been forgiven. I’ve comforted others,” he said. “I’ve been kissed by dogs, I’ve been bit by dogs. I’ve been a fighter. I’ve conformed. I’ve been loved. I’ve been hated. I’ve been different. I’ve been me.”