Through tears and choked voices, the people whom Jerry Sandusky was convicted of abusing faced the former assistant football coach on Tuesday morning — likely for the last time.
Some tearfully took the lectern, sniffling and clearing their voices to make sure their last words to Sandusky were heard. Others submitted written statements because, as prosecutor Joe McGettigan said, facing Sandusky again was too much to bear.
“If words existed to return the childhood to these boys, I would say them,” McGettigan said in his opening statement. “No human being with a beating heart would be silent if they did.”
Those whom Sandusky was convicted of abusing made their entrance with their family members — some hugging each other for support — only minutes before Sandusky took his seat in the courtroom, looking thin in a red Centre County Correctional Facility jumpsuit.
Sandusky’s gaze flickered over to the benches filled with the former Second Mile young men throughout the sentencing, but many of the men refused to make eye contact until they approached the podium.
Three of the people Sandusky was convicted of abusing approached the podium Tuesday, and another submitted a letter that McGettigan read on his behalf. The mother of the person referred to as “Victim 9” in the grand jury presentment also submitted a letter.
Christopher Anderson, executive director of MaleSurvivor — a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy of male sex abuse — said he was not surprised a few of the men decided to give a statement, especially after seeing many of them testify during the trial.
“As heroic and courageous and powerful as it was for those guys to be on the stand and testify earlier in the summer, I think in some ways it was just as heroic to confront and speak directly to Jerry Sandusky,” Anderson said.
The man referred to as “Victim 6” addressed Sandusky first, clearing his throat into the microphone before he began speaking.
“I didn’t know how to process or understand what happened that night,” he said, “the night you told me you were the tickle monster and touched my 11-year-old body and got me to think what you were doing was OK.”
The young man testified to the grand jury that on May 3, 1998, when he was 11 years old, Sandusky took him to the Lasch Football Building to work out and proceeded to shower with him afterward, as previously reported.
Upon returning home, his mother questioned why his hair was wet and was upset when she learned her son had showered with Sandusky. She proceeded to report the incident to Penn State Police, which in turn sparked the 1998 investigation, in which Sandusky is quoted saying to the boy’s mother, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”
The person referred to as “Victim 5” also addressed Sandusky Tuesday morning, wiping his eyes as he walked past McGettigan to begin his statement.
“Consider the real harm that [Sandusky] has done to me and others,” he said. “Take into account the tears and pain that others and I have suffered. It is real. It is painful and will be inside me forever.”
The young man continued to cry after taking his seat with his family, his parents burying their heads in their hands as Sandusky later read his own statement.
Following the sentencing, Tom Kline, who represents the person referred to as “Victim 5,” said the sentence issued to Sandusky was fair and needed to happen, as it removed from the community a man who “prowled” Penn State’s campus.
Kline said his team will actively fight to make sure Penn State “turns the corner and compensates the victims” for the university’s wrongdoing. He also said because Penn State accepted the findings of the Freeh Report as binding, the university will now face the repercussions and expectations outlined in it through civil suits and other financial burdens.
The person referred to as “Victim 4” was the last man to approach the podium and address Sandusky directly, blowing out the air in his cheeks and taking a deep breath in preparation to speak.
“You had the chance to plead guilty to these charges and spare us the most embarrassing moments of our life,” he said. “You should be ashamed of yourself and others who covered up what happened to us.”
But Tuesday marked an important day in the Penn State community, said Anne Ard, executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center.
“When a community holds a perpetrator accountable, it tells the victims that we believe you,” Ard said. “But we’re not done yet. If we stop here, we fail.”
Sandusky was sentenced to 30 years to 60 years in prison Tuesday morning. He was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse in late June.
Collegian staff writer Tim Gilbert contributed to this report.