Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, age 68, was found guilty of all but three charges against him relating to sex with children. The guilty verdict included all 17 counts of the most serious charges such as involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and unlawful contact with minors, each of which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The trial lasted two weeks and the jury heard, in disturbing detail, how Sandusky seduced and molested 10 boys in the Penn State football locker room and in the basement of his home.
The emotional trial that included eight victims as well as a number of eyewitnesses. Sandusky’s defense attorney Joe Amendola conceded that there was “too much a mountain of evidence, overwhelming evidence with 10 separate cases” to overcome. Amendola also noted the “tidal wave of public opinion” against Mr. Sandusky and commented that while the Sandusky family is very disappointed in the verdict, “it was the expected outcome” due to all the evidence against his client. In convicting Sandusky, the jury deliberated for approximately twenty hours, staying late on a Friday night to reach the guilty verdict.
The jury did not hear from Sandusky himself, despite the fact that much of the defense depended on his testimony. Amendola noted that this eleventh hour decision for Sandusky not to testify came after Matt Sandusky, Mr. Sandusky’s youngest adopted son, told prosecutors that as a child his father sexually abused him and that he could serve as a rebuttal witness to Mr. Sandusky’s testimony. Although the defense believed that Matt was lying, Amendola stated that, “it took the guts out of our defense.” Matt did not end up testifying and the jury did not learn that he was a potential witness until after the verdict.
Sandusky will be sentenced in 90 days and faces the functional equivalent of life in prison. Although Sandusky’s case is over now save for the appeals, at least two top-ranking former Penn State officials have also been indicted for lying to a grand jury in connection with this case. Penn State itself has also launched an investigation related to the Mr. Sandusky and other’s behavior and will release a report next month on their findings.
The Sandusky case reinforces the longstanding tradition of Pennsylvania juries to convict any defendant accused by more than three victims. In these cases it simply does not pay to go to trial – damage control is the better option where it is an available option.