Sandusky accusers offer glimpse of lives now
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) –Before they took the witness stand against Jerry Sandusky, the young men who say they were molested as boys by the former Penn State assistant football coach were nameless and faceless, identified in court papers only by number.
Their testimony, at times graphic and emotional, gave the public a glimpse of who they are now and how their lives have turned out in the years since Sandusky allegedly groped them, fondled them, and in some cases forced them into oral and anal sex.
One man, the jury learned, lives in Colorado and just graduated from Bible college. Another is an infantry sergeant in the Army National Guard and served in Iraq. A third spent time in state prison for robbery.
All met Sandusky, 68, through The Second Mile, the charity that he started to help troubled youths but that prosecutors say he used to find his victims.
A jury began deliberating the 48 charges against Sandusky on Thursday, weighing the accounts of the alleged victims against the claim by his attorney that Sandusky has been wrongfully accused by overzealous police and prosecutors and by young men with a financial motive to lie. The deliberations resume Friday morning.
Matt Casey, a lawyer representing the accusers known as Victims 3 and 7, said his clients are “understandably upset and nervous about this trial. Suffice it to say that they are struggling, as they have every day, with what happened.”
Eight men in all took the stand, some of them reluctant witnesses confronting long-buried memories, others displaying raw emotion as they told jurors how Sandusky groomed them and then betrayed their trust.
Like many, the 25-year-old accuser known as Victim 10 testified he kept quiet about his molestation out of shame, fear and embarrassment. He descended into drug and alcohol abuse and was jailed for theft in 2004. Later, he robbed an elderly man and spent 23 months in state prison.
But he said he’s doing “a lot better” now. “I’m married. I’m expecting.” He said he didn’t want to testify but decided “it’s the right thing to do.”
The two youngest victims earned their high school diplomas a few days before the trial started.
Eighteen-year-old Victim 1 sobbed violently as he testified about the first time Sandusky forced him to perform oral sex. The other 18-year-old — who said he was raped in the basement of the Sandusky home and screamed in vain for someone to help — could barely look at his alleged tormentor, demurring when asked to identify Sandusky for the record.
Told he must, the teenager, known as Victim 9, shot the briefest of glances at the retired coach and motioned disdainfully toward him.
Victim 3, now 25, testified that his behavior worsened the longer he endured Sandusky’s abuse. The troubled teenager was sent to a pair of group homes, then placed into foster care. From there, he went into the Army and served in Iraq in 2008 and 2009.
He said Sandusky never contacted him or his mother to find out where he was or how he was doing — and expressed pain over the snub.
“I’m mad, I’m outraged, I’m hurt,” he said, “because he could just forget about me like I was nothing after I got sent away. I got sent away and that was it.” He said that when he lived in a group home, he prayed that Sandusky would call and “maybe find a way to get me out of there. … But it never happened.”
Casey, his lawyer, said that even though Victim 3 is a “strong person,” it’s not correct to assume that because he turned his life around and entered the military, he’s put the abuse behind him.
“He has to live with it every day, and that’s not going to change,” Casey said. “He’s doing his best to make tomorrow better than today.”
Victim 4 was the prosecution’s first witness, a 28-year-old man who says he endured years of sexual abuse in the Sandusky home, hotels and university facilities. Jurors learned he became a father in 2007, doesn’t own a credit card and has gotten behind on his rent.
Even now, years after the alleged abuse, the man said he’d rather forget.
“I don’t even really want to admit this happened,” he testified. “I’ve spent, you know, so many years burying this in the back of my head forever.”
That may not be a good idea, according to experts in trauma.
“The idea of trying not to think about it or repressing the memories or pretending those things didn’t happen is a Band-Aid coping approach,” said clinical psychologist Matthew Goldfine, of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. Far better, he said, is to work with a trained counselor to get it out in the open and learn how to come to grips. In fact, several of the victims said they have received therapy.
Victim 6, who alleged that Sandusky grabbed him in the shower in May 1998, told jurors he’d put what happened out of his mind until January 2011, when state police approached him about Sandusky.
Now 25, the alleged victim said his perception changed once he began thinking about the incident.
“I feel violated,” said Victim 6, who just graduated from Bible college. “I’ve gone through a lot of emotional roller coasters since then.”
Defense attorney Joseph Amendola questioned the accusers’ credibility, alleging in his closing statement Thursday that the young men concocted stories in anticipation of a windfall from anticipated lawsuits. Six of the eight who testified against the famed coach have retained private attorneys.
Amendola also accused police of coaching the witnesses.
“The police kept going back, kept questioning them, saying, ‘There’s more to this. We don’t think you’re telling us the truth,'” Amendola said.
Prosecutor Joe McGettigan urged the jury to disregard the “conspiracy theory” offered by Amendola. Remember the victims, he urged — and “give them back their souls.”
Sandusky’s arrest in November led the Penn State trustees to fire beloved coach Joe Paterno, saying he exhibited a lack of leadership after fielding a report from a graduate assistant about a 2001 assault in the football shower. 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. They await trial.
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