US jury in football coach's sex abuse trial had little doubt on his guilt

Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 01:00

BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania – Joshua Harper watched Jerry Sandusky listen to one guilty verdict after another – 45 in all – and was more certain than ever that Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach, had sexually abused those young boys.

Sandusky never flinched. No sign of regret creased his face. “He knew it was true,” Harper, a high-school chemistry teacher here, said as his two-year-old son and his four- and five-year-old daughters played on the floor of their home on Saturday. “It made me feel confident that we made the right decision.”

For two weeks, Harper, a graduate of Penn State and a juror in Sandusky’s trial, heard how one of his alma mater’s most famous graduates preyed on and molested 10 boys as he simultaneously built a charity and a reputation as a pillar of a tight-knit community where football and family were highly valued. On Friday, Sandusky (68), spent the first night of what is expected to be the rest of his life behind bars. He will be sentenced within 90 days and his fate from here on is rigidly mapped out and is at the mercy of the state’s justice system.

In the meantime, Sandusky will be examined by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which will determine whether he is a violent sexual predator. He will likely be isolated from other prisoners for his own protection until Judge John Cleland reviews the reports and settles on a sentence. Then Sandusky will be transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, in south-central Pennsylvania, which holds up to 4,000 inmates, a quarter of them classified as temporary.

Harper said there was little debate and even less doubt in the jury room about Sandusky’s guilt. As emotional and wrenching as the accounts were from the eight victims who testified, Harper said the grimmest and most significant testimony came from Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, who said he interrupted a sexual assault by his former coach against a young boy in the showers at the football centre.

“It was just eye-opening on all the things that happened because we got a whole lot of detail on what Sandusky was doing,” Harper said. While Sandusky’s future appears predestined, the fates of Penn State, its football programme and some of its current and past officials are at the mercy of a number of inquiries. There are federal investigations into a possible cover-up by Penn State and the charity Sandusky founded, the Second Mile. The university’s board of trustees has hired the former FBI director Louis J Freeh to look into the mistakes made in the wake of Sandusky’s crimes and the remedies needed.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Big Ten Conference are investigating whether the athletic department lost its institutional control and whether there were more violations of ethical conduct and compliance.

Two fired administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, have been accused of lying to a grand jury regarding the shower incident witnessed by McQueary.

Then there are the numerous civil suits from Sandusky’s victims on the horizon. “The university plans to invite victims of Mr Sandusky’s abuse to participate in a programme to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr Sandusky’s conduct,” Penn State said in a statement. “The purpose of the programme is simple – the university wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims’ concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the university.”

Among the plaintiffs might be Matt Sandusky, an adopted son of the coach who came forward in the final days of the trial and offered to testify that Jerry Sandusky had abused him as well. Matt Sandusky was never called to testify, but his adoptive father’s lead lawyer, Joseph Amendola, conceded that the disclosure had kept his client off the witness stand to defend himself.

Although the jury did not hear that Matt Sandusky had joined the list of accusers until after the verdict, Harper said it was a unifying moment for the jury’s seven women and five men, who had decided early not to exchange last names or contact information.

“That was total confirmation that we made the right decision. That was very important for me because I don’t have to question my decision.” On the day after justice was served to one of the most high-profile paedophiles in recent times, no one in this corner of the world known as Happy Valley doubted the right verdict was rendered. Still, it did not mean they were happy about it. – (New York Times)