Convictions in abuse case against former American football coach 

 

A top coach in one of America's prominent college football programs has been convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years in a case that shocked the nation and led to the dismissal of legendary Penn State University head coach Joe Paterno.

Jerry Sandusky, a 68-year-old retired defensive coach who was once Paterno's heir apparent, was found guilty yesterday of 45 of 48 counts. He faces life in prison at sentencing, which is weeks away. 

Sandusky showed little emotion as the verdict was read, then the judge ordered him to be jailed while awaiting sentencing in about three months. Sandusky half-waved toward family as the sheriff led him away. Outside, he calmly walked to a sheriff's car with his hands cuffed in front of him. 

As he was placed in the car, someone yelled at him to "rot in hell." Others hurled insults and he shook his head no in response. 

Eight young men testified in a central Pennsylvania courtroom about a range of abuse, from kissing and massages to groping, oral sex and anal rape. For two other alleged victims, prosecutors relied on testimony from a university janitor and then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, whose account of a sexual encounter between Sandusky and a boy of about 10 ultimately led to Paterno's dismissal and the university president's ouster. 

Sandusky did not take the stand in his own defense. 

Penn State's hallowed football program plays its home games in State College, a small community of about 40,000 with the nickname Happy Valley. The contests draw more than 100,000 people and the team's success has raked in millions of dollars in television broadcast rights, merchandising and more. 

The Penn State program also captured fans' imaginations because it had a reputation of being honorable and avoiding the usual pitfalls of American college sports, including academic cheating by athletes to meet the required grades. 

Allegations were made, however, that Sandusky had for years molested young boys and that the college's administration had hushed it up or ignored it to protect the sports program shattered the public university's image. 

Sandusky had repeatedly denied the allegations, and his defence suggested that his accusers had a financial motive to make up stories, years after the fact. His attorney also painted Sandusky as the victim of overzealous police investigators who coached the alleged victims into giving accusatory statements. 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly thanked the accusers who testified, calling them "brave men." She said she hoped the verdict "helps these victims heal ... and helps other victims of abuse to come forward." 

She said: "One of the recurring themes in this case was, 'Who would believe a kid?' The answer is 'We here in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, would believe a kid." 

After the verdict was announced, defense attorney Karl Rominger said it was "a tough case" with a lot of charges and that an appeal was certain. He said the defense team "didn't exactly have a lot of time to prepare." 

But jurors believed the testimony that, in the words of lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III, Sandusky was a "predatory pedophile." 

The accuser known in court papers as Victim 6 broke down in tears upon hearing the verdicts in the courtroom. Afterward, a prosecutor embraced him and said, "Did I ever lie to you?" 

The man, now 25, testified that Sandusky called himself the "tickle monster" in a shower assault. He declined to comment to a reporter afterward. 

His mother said: "Nobody wins. We've all lost." 

One accuser testified that Sandusky molested him in the locker-room showers and in hotels while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips to bowl games. He also said Sandusky had sent him "creepy love letters." 

Another spoke of forced oral sex and instances of rape in the basement of Sandusky's home, including abuse that left him bleeding. He said he once tried to scream for help, knowing that Sandusky's wife was upstairs, but figured the basement must be soundproof. 

Another, a foster child, said Sandusky warned that he would never see his family again if he ever told anyone what happened. 

And just hours after the case went to jurors, lawyers for one of Sandusky's six adopted children, Matt, said he had told authorities that his father abused him. 

Matt Sandusky had been prepared to testify on behalf of prosecutors, the statement said. The lawyers said they arranged for Matt Sandusky to meet with law enforcement officials but did not explain why he didn't testify. 

"This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt and he has asked us to convey his request that the media respect his privacy," the statement said. It didn't go into details about his allegations. 

Defense witnesses, including Jerry Sandusky's wife, Dottie, described his philanthropic work with children over the years, and many spoke in positive terms about his reputation in the community. Prosecutors had portrayed those efforts as an effective means by which Sandusky could camouflage his molestation as he targeted boys who were the same age as participants in The Second Mile, a charity he founded in the 1970s for at-risk youth. 

Sandusky's arrest in November led the Penn State trustees to fire Paterno as head coach, saying he exhibited a lack of leadership after fielding a report from McQueary. The scandal also led to the ouster of university president Graham Spanier, and criminal charges against two university administrators for failing to properly report suspected child abuse and perjury. 

The two administrators, athletic director Tim Curley and now-retired vice president Gary Schultz, are fighting the allegations and await trial. 

The family of Paterno, who died exactly five months before Sandusky's conviction, released a statement saying: "Although we understand the task of healing is just beginning, today's verdict is an important milestone. The community owes a measure of gratitude to the jurors for their diligent service. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families." 

In a statement, Penn State praised the accusers who testified and said that it planned to invite the victims of Sandusky's abuse to participate in a private program to address their concerns and compensate them for claims related to the school. 

AP

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