Prosecutor calls Sandusky a ‘predatory pedophile’
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) – Jerry Sandusky was a serial predator who took advantage of fatherless children or those with unstable home lives and sexually abused them for years, the lead prosecutor said Monday in his opening statement at the former Penn State assistant football coach’s trial.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan III showed the jury of seven women and five men pictures of the accusers and said that prosecutors will show that the longtime assistant to football coach Joe Paterno was a pedophile whose activities took place “not over days, not over weeks, not even over months, but in some cases over years.”
McGettigan told the jury that Sandusky put his hands in one victim’s pants and engaged in oral sex with another. He said prosecutors will show a pattern in which Sandusky groomed boys, gave them gifts and then abused them.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he has denied. Sandusky’s lawyers were not able to get the judge to delay the trial, and on Friday Judge John Cleland rejected their request to have some or all of the counts dismissed.
They were to offer their opening statement later Monday morning.
McGettigan told the jury that Sandusky met the each of the victims through The Second Mile, a children’s charity Sandusky established in 1977. He called the charity the “perfect environment for the predatory pedophile” and his way to get close to his victims.
Six of the alleged victims had no father in their lives, McGettigan said.
“They are real people with real experience,” McGettigan said. “You will know they were violated.”
Describing the alleged abuse’s effect on the children, McGettigan displayed a slide to the jury with the words “Humiliation Shame Fear” and “Silence” in bold, black letters.
A pair of scathing grand jury reports alleged that Sandusky sexually abused young boys he met through The Second Mile. Sandusky allegedly used his connection to the football program and gifts to groom boys for sexual contact that the grand jury said occurred at his home or in the team facility’s on Penn State’s campus.
Sandusky hunched slightly in his seat at the defense table as Cleland outlined the charges to the jurors. He looked pale and blinked a lot, then he looked away after McGettigan referenced an alleged 2001 attack in a Penn State shower.
Cleland opted not to sequester the jury, saying he trusted the panel to avoid reading or watching reports about the case.
Many of the alleged victims are expected to take the stand for the prosecution, and their credibility in jurors’ eyes could prove to be the decisive factor in determining the verdict.
Slade McLaughlin, the attorney for the teen identified in the grand jury report as Victim 1, said he expects his client to testify Monday or Tuesday.
“He’s in good spirits, very calm, very relaxed,” McLaughlin said as he waited for a seat inside the courtroom.
Several dozen members of the public stood in line outside the courthouse, also hoping to get a seat. Outside, satellite trucks lined the streets of Bellefonte, the small town about 10 miles from Penn State where as massive media contingent gathered for the trial.
Snowboards, hockey sticks and other items described in a grand jury report as gifts lavished on one of the victims were carried into the courthouse before the start of the morning session.
Mindful of protecting the privacy of witnesses, officials set up a tent at the rear of the courthouse while the doors were covered to obscure views of the witness-holding areas.
However the criminal case ends, when it comes to getting to the bottom of what happened, the trial will not be the final word.
The state attorney general’s office has repeatedly indicated it has an “active and ongoing” related investigation, and the mere existence of the open investigation suggests additional criminal charges could result.
There also clearly is a federal investigation, but there are few details beyond the fact that Penn State said that in February it had been issued a wide-ranging subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office in Harrisburg, seeking computer records and other information.
Two Penn State administrators are awaiting trial on charges they failed to properly report suspected abuse and lied to the grand jury investigating Sandusky. The pending charges raise the prospect that investigators under the attorney general’s office may be continuing to look into that matter, which commonly occurs after charges are filed and before trial.
Several of Sandusky’s alleged victims have retained attorneys, although only one has so far filed a civil complaint. That case is on hold until Sandusky’s trial wraps up, and other lawyers also have indicated they are holding back until a verdict is reached.
GENARO C. ARMAS
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