After 20 hours of deliberation, seven months of revelations and decades of suppressed pain, the victims finally have their closure.
Jerry Sandusky, the 68-year-old former assistant coach of Penn State’s football team, was convicted Friday evening on 45 out of 48 counts of sexual abuse. According to the Associated Press, Sandusky stood expressionless in the Bellefonte, Pa. courtroom as the jury, seven women and five men, read the verdict. He was convicted of 25 felonies and 14 first degree felonies and faces 442 years in prison. Following sentencing in three months, he will likely spend the remainder of his life behind bars.
Sandusky said nothing as he was led from the courthouse to a police car in handcuffs, quickly glancing past gathered TV crews. He was accused of sexually abusing 10 young children over a period of 15 years. Prosecutors argued he sexually abused the boys, some as young as 10 years old, between 1994 and 2008. He was initially charged with 52 counts of criminal child sexual abuse, though four of those counts were dropped late into the proceedings. (See TIME’s full coverage of the Sandusky scandal)
The trial began June 11, bringing international attention to the tiny hamlet of Bellefonte, Pa., a town of 6,000 nestled among the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. Just 10 miles southwest rests the now-disgraced town of State College, home of Penn State, that has been rocked by the scandal involving the former Penn State defensive coordinator who was once a local celebrity.
(LIST: 7 Key Players in the Penn State Abuse Case)
Along with Sandusky, the scandal implicated former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, both of whom were allegedly informed about the abuse but failed to investigate it properly. Schultz, as the administrative head of the Penn State campus police department, would have had the power to take criminal action against Sandusky. He and Curley are currently facing charges of perjury and failure to report. Both have denied all wrongdoing.
Sandusky’s misdeeds also ruined the careers of Penn State President Graham Spanier, who was forced out by the Board of Trustees, and storied Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football and the college town’s biggest hero, who was fired. Riots broke out on the campus of 45,000 students after the decision was handed down to remove the coach. Paterno, 85, died of lung cancer on January 22, 2012, just two months after he was removed from the team.
Jerry Sandusky’s alleged wrongdoing had been under investigation since 2008 but was unveiled to the public on November 4, 2011 when the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office publicly released its grand jury presentment, containing the testimonies of eight young boys who said they were sexually abused by Sandusky. Two more men came forward after the presentment was handed down, and Sandusky was formally charged with abusing those boys on December 7.
The trial, originally slated to take three weeks, was handed to the jury in less than two. The eight-day trial began June 11 with the testimony of Victim No. 4 (see a recap of day one), who described more than 40 instances of abuse by Sandusky, beginning in the locker room showers on the Penn State campus. Now 28, the alleged victim described how, when he was around the age of 13, he and Sandusky would have “soap battles” in the shower and said these encounters would escalate into caressing and, eventually, oral sex. Two charges related to Victim No. 4’s testimony were dropped on the last day of the trial, with Judge Cleland citing that not enough evidence was given in support certain counts.
The following day (see a recap of day two), Victim No. 1 took the stand with emotional testimony, describing the abuse he suffered when he was 13. The graphic details he shared moved some jurors to tears, as he detailed a routine of dinner, games and “bedtime” with Jerry Sandusky in the basement of Sandusky’s home, when Sandusky would “blow on his stomach” and sometimes perform oral sex. He testified that when he told a school guidance counselor about the alleged abuse, the educator refused to believe him, saying “[Sandusky] has a heart of gold, and he wouldn’t do something like that.”
The victims’ testimony was followed by the prosecution’s key witness, who provided the most detailed eyewitness account of the alleged abuse. Mike McQueary told jurors that he walked into a Penn State locker room late one Friday night in 2001 and encountered Sandusky in the shower with a young boy. Upon hearing “skin-on-skin slapping noises,” McQueary said he got “three distinguishable looks” at the boy and the coach before slamming his locker door to make his presence known. The jury asked to rehear McQueary’s recorded testimony Friday during deliberations.
McQueary’s father John held up his son’s testimony when called to the witness stand. John was the first call Mike McQueary made the night he saw Sandusky in the shower with the boy. John McQueary told the court his son didn’t explain in graphic detail the sexual acts he saw, but “it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see what was going on.” One accuser, Victim No. 10, whose abuse hadn’t yet been revealed as he came forward after the original grand jury investigation, testified that Sandusky had an aggressive side. “He told me that if I ever told anyone that I’d never see my family again,” after performing oral sex on the boy, then 11 years old.
(PHOTOS: Riots Rock Penn State After Paterno Firing)
Sandusky also had a fearful side, it was revealed. When Victim No. 6 told his mother he had showered with Sandusky, she helped create a police sting in which she confronted Sandusky at her home. When asked about the abuse, Sandusky supposedly cried to her, saying “I wish I were dead,” according to the testimony of Ronald Schreffler, a former Penn State police investigator. Schreffler said he referred that 1998 encounter to the local district attorney for possible prosecution, but it was declined. It wasn’t until Victim No. 1 came forward in 2008, coupled with an anonymous email to the Centre County District Attorney, that led to an in-depth investigation into Jerry Sandusky’s alleged wrongdoing.
In all, eight of the ten accusers named in the indictment took the stand to testify against Jerry Sandusky, but Sandusky never took the stand himself. Lead defense attorney Joe Amendola said “no one factor” contributed to the decision, but a bombshell was dropped Thursday, just after the jury was sent to deliberate: Sandusky’s adopted son Matt came forward as a victim. Now 33, Matt Sandusky gave few details of his abuse, as NBC News reported Matt would have taken the stand if his father testified. Sandusky’s wife of 45 years, Dottie, defended her husband. She said she never saw any indication of abuse and heard no noises from the basement, even after one accuser testified he screamed while being abused by Sandusky.
The defense alleged that the young men were colluding to collect a large payout. Amendola argued that investigators in the case had fed lines to the victims during their official police statements. But head prosecutor Joe McGettigan consistently denied Amendola’s claims, and in closing arguments he turned the focus back on the alleged victims. On a large screen in the courtroom, he displayed photos of the eight youths who testified against Sandusky. They appeared as happy young boys – carrying dark secrets. “We can’t give them back their souls or those pieces of souls that he took,” McGettigan appealed to the jurors. “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.”