Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky arrived in court today wearing a bright red jumpsuit. That prison uniform will likely be his for the rest of his life as the 68-year-old was sentenced to a minimum of 30, but not more that 60, years in prison for molesting young boys.
It’s been more than three months since Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse in a Bellefonte, Pa., courtroom. Today, Judge John Cleland cited Sandusky’s betrayal of the young boys who looked up to him as head of the Second Mile charity as “heinous” but gave a lesser sentence than the maximum. Cleland told the defendant “I’m not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law will permit that.” Still, the judge made it clear he expected Sandusky to die in prison.
Sandusky had released an audiotaped statement to Penn State’s radio station on Monday in which he insisted that he was innocent and that his only sexual partner since marriage was his wife: “They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they can treat me as a monster, but they can’t take away my heart.”
In court today, Sandusky spoke for 15 minutes before Cleland’s ruling. “I did not do these alleged disgusting acts,” he told the judge. “The pain continues as I think of those who made the allegations. These are people I cared about, and still do.”
Judge Cleland also heard from three of the ten victims who came forward to accuse Sandusky of molesting them. One victim, who was 13 in 2001 when Sandusky fondled him in the shower, said: “I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory… Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them.”
Sandusky’s lead defense attorney Joe Amendola promised an appeal for a new trial on the grounds that the defense was not granted several requests to delay the trial. The chances of a successful appeal on those grounds seem slim.
Although the sentencing likely marks the final public appearance of Jerry Sandusky, the scandal that rocked Penn State continues to reverberate. While the football team struggles in the wake of punitive penalties from the NCAA and the now forever tarnished legend of longtime coach Joe Paterno, former Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz await trial for perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury charged with weighing evidence on the case.
Current Penn State President Rodney Erickson issued a statement in the wake of the sentencing: “Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse,” Erickson said. “While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events.”