Jerry Sandusky sentenced to prison

Updated: October 9, 2012, 5:33 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison -- effectively a life sentence -- in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno's downfall.

A defiant Sandusky gave a rambling statement in which he denied the allegations and talked about his life in prison and the pain of being away from his family.

"I've forgiven, I've been forgiven. I've comforted others, I've been comforted. I've been kissed by dogs, I've been bit by dogs," he said. "I've conformed, I've also been different. I've been me. I've been loved, I've been hated."

Three victims spoke, often fighting back tears. One looked Sandusky in the eyes at times. Two of the men exchanged a long embrace after court was adjourned.

The 68-year-old former Penn State assistant coach was found guilty in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, convicted of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Witnesses said Sandusky used the charitable organization he founded for troubled children as his personal hunting ground to find and groom boys to become his victims.

Judge John Cleland handed down a 30- to 60-year term. He called Sandusky dangerous, saying he betrayed children and abused their trust. Under Pennsylvania law, Sandusky cannot be released on parole before the minimum term is up.

Sandusky's arrest 11 months ago, and the details that came out during his trial over the summer, transformed his public image from a college coach who had been widely admired for his work with The Second Mile charity into that of a reviled pervert who preyed on the very youngsters who sought his help.

Eight of the boys he was found guilty of molesting testified at his trial, describing a range of abuse that included fondling, oral sex and anal intercourse. One of the prosecution's star witnesses, former graduate assistant Mike McQueary, testified that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a locker room shower.

Sandusky has consistently maintained his innocence and plans to appeal. One element of the appeal is expected to be a claim that the defense did not have time to adequately prepare for trial. Sandusky was charged in November, following a lengthy investigation.

Sandusky said he knows in his heart that he did not do what he called "disgusting acts," repeating a comment he made in a three-minute monologue that aired Monday night by Penn State Com Radio. In the radio recording, Sandusky described himself as the victim of a coordinated conspiracy among Penn State, investigators, civil attorneys, the media and others.

His statement in court lasted 15 minutes and his voice cracked as he spoke of missing his loved ones.

"I speak today with hope in my heart for a brighter day, not knowing if that day will come," Sandusky said. "Many moments have been spent looking for a purpose. Maybe it will help others, some vulnerable children who might have been abused, might not be, as a result of the publicity."

His statement also included numerous sports references: He said he once told his wife "we're definitely in the fourth quarter" and he referenced the movie "Seabiscuit."

He also spoke of instances in which he said he helped children.

Among the three victims who spoke Tuesday, a young man who said he was 11 when Sandusky groped him in a shower in 1998, said Sandusky is in denial and should "stop coming up with excuses."

"I've been left with deep painful wounds that you caused and had been buried in the garden of my heart for many years," he said.

Another man said he was 13 when, in 2001, Sandusky lured him into a Penn State sauna and then a shower and forced him to touch the ex-coach.

"I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory," he said. "Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them."

"The tragedy of this crime is that it's a story of betrayal. The most obvious aspect is your betrayal of 10 children," Cleland said before the sentencing. "I'm not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law will permit that." Still, Cleland said, he expected Sandusky to die in prison.

Before sentencing, Judge Cleland designated Sandusky as a sexually violent predator under the state's Megan's Law. The label essentially has no effect on Sandusky, since its requirement is lifetime registration after a convict is released from prison. Sandusky won't be released on parole before the minimum 30-year term is up.

In sentencing the ex-coach, Cleland called Sandusky dangerous, saying, "You abused the trust of those who trusted you." He also called Sandusky's comments in the radio statement about a conspiracy against him "unbelievable."

After the sentencing, prosecutor Joe McGettigan praised the victims' courage and dismissed Sandusky's comments as "a masterpiece of banal self-delusion, completely untethered from reality and without any acceptance of responsibility."

"It was entirely self-focused as if he, again, were the victim," McGettigan said.

Lawyers for the victims said they were satisfied with the sentence, but with four lawsuits brought against Penn State and several more expected, and Penn State laboring under severe NCAA penalties, cleaning up in the wake of what may be the biggest scandal in college sports history may take years.

Ben Andreozzi, an attorney for one the victims, said the university needs to do more: "It's important they understand before we get into serious discussions about money, that there are other, noneconomic issues. We need apologies. We need changes in policy. This isn't just about money."

Penn State fired Paterno after Sandusky's arrest, and the coach died of lung cancer three months later. The scandal also brought down university president Graham Spanier.

Two university administrators, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, are awaiting trial in January on charges they failed to properly report suspicions about Sandusky and lied to the grand jury that investigated him.

Over the summer, an investigation commissioned by the university and led by former FBI director Louis Freeh concluded that Paterno and other top officials covered up allegations against Sandusky for years to avoid bad publicity.

After the report came out, the NCAA fined Penn State a record $60 million, barred the football team from postseason play for four years, cut the number of scholarships it can award, and erased 14 years of victories for Paterno, stripping him of his standing as the winningest coach in the history of big-time college football.

"Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky's abuse," Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in a statement. "While today's sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery."

I want you to know I don't forgive you and I don't know if I will ever forgive you. My only regret is that I didn't come forward sooner.

-- One of Jerry Sandusky's victims, speaking in court Tuesday

Eight legal teams representing at least 20 young men have surfaced, and the school recently announced an effort to settle as many claims as possible by the end of the year. Several plaintiffs' lawyers were in the courtroom.

The third victim who spoke had testified that he was raped over the course of years by Sandusky, including on team trips to bowl games in Texas and Florida.

"I want you to know I don't forgive you and I don't know if I will ever forgive you," he said. "My only regret is that I didn't come forward sooner."

Also making remarks to the court during the sentencing hearing was Victim No. 5, who said, "I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory. Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.