All that will be said had been said. After the defense and prosecution made their closing arguments on Thursday afternoon, Jerry Sandusky’s fate was placed in the hands of the 12 men and women who’ve sat through eight days of testimony — and seven months of speculation. The former Penn State assistant coach is accused of 48 counts of criminal abuse over the course of 15 years. He’s steadily maintained his innocence since the scandal came to light after a grand jury investigation in November. The trial, once expected to take three weeks, was sent to the jury in less than two. But as the jury began its deliberations, new reports emerged of a bombshell development in the case: Sandusky’s adopted son Matt now says he was a victim as well. Here are the five most crucial details from the eighth day of the trial.
Matt Sandusky comes forward. After Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers ruled against having the former coach take the stand in his defense, lead defense attorney Joe Amendola said “no one factor” contributed to the decision. But NBC News reported on Thursday that the main reason was a threat by the prosecution to call a surprise witness to rebut Sandusky’s testimony: his own son Matt Sandusky. The 33-year-old, who was fostered by Jerry and Dottie Sandusky as a boy and then formally adopted as an adult, was also a victim of Sandusky’s abuse, his lawyer claimed on Thursday. According to NBC, Matt Sandusky was prepared to take the stand if called. While Matt Sandusky was an ardent supporter of his father in the earliest days of the scandal, he allegedly reached out to prosecutors to share his story after the trial began. “This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt, and he has asked us to convey his request that the media respect his privacy,” his lawyer Andrew Shubin said in a statement.
He was never called to the witness stand, but Matt Sandusky was indeed invoked during the trial proceedings. Victim No. 4 explained that Matt Sandusky was in the shower with him and Jerry Sandusky at the time of one alleged incident, according to NBC. But the alleged victim said Matt Sandusky seemed “nervous” when the elder Sandusky proceeded to playfully throw soap at him and went into another shower instead.
In closing arguments, the defense made a final push to prove the accusers were colluding. They’ve orchestrated “a conspiracy that collapses under its own weight,” said lead defense attorney Joe Amendola, alleging that the eight accusers and police investigators were simply looking for a takedown and a payout. Amendola continued to push his theory of a concocted case in which investigators fed lines to the men during their witness statements. During his 72-minute closing statement, he called into question the alleged victims’ credibility, wondering why it took so long for them to come forward and noting that their stories were all so similar. He also cited the lack of physical evidence in the case and attempted to upend investigators’ method of searching Sandusky’s 2001 autobiography, Touched, for additional victims after Victim No. 1 came forward. “He writes a book and puts all of his victims in the book. That’s smart,” Amendola said. But prosecutor Joseph McGettigan hardly flinched at Amendola’s claims. “You always have to accuse the victims, and you always have to allege a conspiracy,” he told the jury.
The prosecution closed on an emotional appeal. Photos of eight young boys flashed on a 12-ft. screen in the courtroom. The eight smiling faces, McGettigan said, are “what this case is about,” not any sort of conspiracy theory. “We can’t give them back their souls or those pieces of souls that he took,” McGettigan told the jury. “But he knows he did it, and you know he did it. Give him the justice he really deserves, and find him guilty of everything.” Eight of 10 alleged victims named in the indictment took the stand during the trial to detail Sandusky’s abusive ways.
McGettigan also brought up the awkward Rock Center interview the 68-year-old Sandusky gave in November. “I would think that the automatic response if someone asks you if are a criminal, a pedophile, a child molester, it would be, ‘You’re crazy! You’re nuts!’” McGettigan said. Instead, when challenged by Bob Costas, Sandusky gave a meandering response. McGettigan’s 65-minute closing argument brought the focus back to the alleged victims after the three days of defense witnesses who attempted to discredit the young men. “Use perception, insight and understanding to know what is going on with these witnesses,” he told the jury.
Three more counts against Sandusky have been dropped. Judge John Cleland agreed to dismiss three charges just before the jury was sent off to deliberate. One count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse was dismissed because the judge said it was too similar to another count. And two charges pertaining to Victim No. 4 were dropped because Judge Cleland felt they weren’t supported by the evidence. One count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and one count of aggravated indecent assault were wiped from the list, leaving 48 charges remaining. He still faces nine counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, the most serious charge, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A total of four counts, out of an initial 52, have been dropped in the past week. Sandusky faces 400 years in prison if convicted on all remaining charges.
Jurors are sequestered at a local hotel until they deliver a verdict. At 1:12 p.m., the court was adjourned and the jury was sent away to deliberate. Judge Cleland ordered that the jurors be sequestered — holed up in a local hotel with no access to phones or televisions — so as to avoid any external information from impacting their decision. This makes it unlikely that Matt Sandusky’s allegations, which were announced late Thursday afternoon, will have any bearing on the outcome of the case. “We all rely on your integrity and your good judgment,” Cleland told jurors.