Lawyer: Jerry Sandusky insists he’s not guilty
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – As Jerry Sandusky insisted through a lawyer Monday that he is not guilty of sexually abusing children, a juror who voted to convict the retired Penn State assistant coach said she hoped the verdict would help his accusers heal.
The jury found the testimony of the eight victims who took the witness stand compelling, Ann Van Kuren said Monday. Jurors weighed the accounts and evidence diligently before finding Sandusky guilty last week of 45 counts for sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, she said.
She expressed empathy for the eight men who offered emotional and explicit testimony.
“I really feel for the victims and any other victims that are out there that haven’t come forward,” Van Kuren said. “That all of them need to heal. I’m hoping that this trial, with this verdict, will help them heal.”
The sweeping case rocked the Penn State community following Sandusky’s arrest in November. The ensuing scandal led to the ousters of Sandusky’s former boss – Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno – and the university’s president, while forcing a re-examination of the role that college administrators played in reporting abuse allegations.
Sandusky, 68, is under observation at the Centre County jail, where he is being kept away from other inmates pending a psychological review that will help determine the next step toward his sentencing in about three months.
“He’s defiant and wants the truth to be told. He wants people to know that he’s not guilty,” said defense lawyer Karl Rominger, who visited his incarcerated client Monday.
Also Monday, Judge John Cleland ordered county probation officers to evaluate whether Sandusky is a sexual predator, a finding that could factor into his prison placement. Such orders are pro forma in sex abuse cases. Sex offenders are required to undergo treatment while in prison, so Sandusky, if deemed a predator, would likely be sent to a facility with such a program.
Sandusky, who has been placed under a suicide watch, said he doesn’t want to kill himself and wants to get the separate psychological examination done so that he can receive visits from his friends and family, Rominger said.
“He’s fine but he’s just not been evaluated,” the lawyer said.
“He is very disappointed to be in prison. He is anxious to get out of this suicide watch,” Rominger said, adding that Sandusky told him: “If I have to keep sitting in this room for another three or four days without being able to talk to anybody, I might start to need help at that point.”
The state investigation into Sandusky didn’t begin until after the ex-coach was barred from a high school in 2009, when a mother complained about the former coach. At the time, Gov. Tom Corbett was the state attorney general. Charges were filed in November 2011.
Investigators took into account Sandusky’s status as a celebrated assistant coach in building the case, Corbett said Monday when asked in Harrisburg why charges weren’t filed after the first accuser came forward.
“If it’s one-on-one and now put the celebrity status in, put (that) Jerry Sandusky is loved by everybody … how can anybody say there must be something wrong,” Corbett said. “You’d better corroborate it, and that’s what they started doing. They started pulling strings and gathering and gathering and gathering, and that’s my experience. You build those cases, as well as you can.”
Corbett said that while he worried that Sandusky might find a new victim while the investigation continued, “I believed (Sandusky) had to know we were looking at him at some point in time. In a sense, if you know that they’re looking at you, you kind of back away. But it was a calculated risk, not one that you really easily want to take.”
Sandusky has repeatedly maintained his innocence. He will likely die in prison, given mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.
The conviction is just the start of possibly years of legal proceedings over the case. Besides appeals, there remains an active investigation into Sandusky by the state attorney general’s office, as well as a federal investigation.
Corbett said Penn State trustees are still awaiting the results of an internal investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh into the school’s handling of the Sandusky case.
The university could also face a wave of new lawsuits. An hour after the verdict Friday night, Penn State said in a statement it was inviting victims to “participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr. Sandusky’s conduct.” The school said it sought to address victims’ concerns privately, expeditiously and fairly.
Asked to clarify Monday, school spokesman Dave LaTorre said the university won’t discuss details about litigation or how much money might be set aside for potential settlements, and declined to comment further.
The verdict was another hurdle for a fractured Penn State community eager to continue what figures to be a long, arduous healing process. Artist Michael Pilato hoped to aid in that effort Monday when he painted a blue ribbon – a symbol for awareness of child sexual abuse – on the portion of his “Inspiration State College” mural downtown that once included Sandusky.
Over the weekend, he replaced the Sandusky image with Van Kuren’s red handprint and a depiction of Dora McQuaid, a poet and advocate for domestic and sexual violence victims and issues. McQuaid is a Penn State graduate and former professor.
Van Kuren said she and Pilato were connected over the weekend through a mutual acquaintance.
“These young people that were the victims of the Sandusky case in my mind are the survivors,” Pilato said. He painted the blue ribbon around McQuaid’s image.
Van Kuren, who runs a nonprofit dance company, called the last few weeks difficult as she and other jurors were ordered to refrain from watching or reading the news and talking about the case with family and friends.
Jurors, she said, took a systematic approach in deliberations, weighing the counts in order as laid out in the state’s presentment. Van Kuren said that in instances when jurors had additional questions for the judge – such as when the jury requested a re-reading of key prosecution witness Mike McQueary’s testimony of a 2001 allegation between Sandusky and a child in a shower – they put counts related to that victim aside and moved to the next set of charges.
Asked about her perception now of Sandusky, Van Kuren said “I think we all felt that when we saw him, and even now what we hear about him, (that) he knows what he did.”
The jury had a good rapport, but the difficult part about deliberations, she said, was the volume of testimony and evidence that had to be weighed. The jurors were respectful of the situations of “all parties” and took everything into consideration, she added.
GENARO C. ARMAS
Associated Press writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.
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