Friday, June 15, 2012

Sandusky should get all 500 years

The trial of Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Penn State, on charges of child sexual abuse and molestation, has recessed for the weekend. The prosecution has been presenting its case, and will continue into next week. It will be interesting to see what Joe Amendola, Sandusky's lawyer, comes up with as a defense, since his cross-examination of prosecution witnesses seems to have consisted mainly of challenging minor discrepancies in testimony, and accusing 'alleged' victims of being motivated by the hope of financial gain.

As contemptible as that is, Amendola probably doesn't have much else, which is why I say it will be interesting to see how he defends his client, and whether Sandusky will take the stand. Amendola is probably no fool, and I suspect he did his best to convince Sandusky to take the best plea bargain he could get. The fact that Sandusky wanted to go to trial--knowing all the sordid and despicable things he did were going to be exposed to the public in graphic detail--speaks to the level of denial that must be operating in his psyche. That he even entertained the idea of being found innocent indicates how little conception he has of the damage he's done.

But even if he's in denial about how much, he knows he was wrong, and that's what matters. His own statements over the years--a letter to a mother saying he knew she would never forgive him, a statement to another mother that he 'wished I were dead'--make it very clear he knew he was doing harm. Compulsion is a terrible thing and a powerful master, and I've no doubt Sandusky was compelled by his impulses and, probably, a victim of the same kind of abuse, himself.

But that only explains him; it does nothing to excuse or absolve him. He was not an opportunistic abuser. He had a preferred type of victim and he deliberately put himself in a position to find them, then patiently groomed them for what in many cases was extended abuse. (I can only hope Amendola's suggestions to the victims, many of them fatherless pre-teens at the time, that they were somehow complicit by continuing to accept Sandusky's attention and gifts, keeps him awake at night.) Anyone who could plan to that extent could also have made the choice to seek help.

Any sex-related crime wreaks havoc on the victim, but there is a special heinousness to cultivating the trust of an emotionally needy child so you can use him for your own gratification. There are many, many people related to Sandusky's long history of child-victimization who will never be put on trial, but whose consciences should forever trouble them--Mike McQueary, law enforcement and university personnel alerted to trouble as far back as 1998, those mothers who failed to vigilantly protect their offspring and, I believe, Sandusky's wife.

But Sandusky, at least, can pay. Never enough, but such a thing isn't possible. As a practical matter, 40 years in prison would accomplish what's needed--that Jerry Sandusky spend the rest of his life behind bars--but conviction on all counts with a maximum sentence does something very important.

It validates the claims of every single victim.


  1. My only concern about this case is the potential jurors who are so upset with the damage done to Penn State that they end up finding reasons for "reasonable doubt" resulting in a hung jury. I hope that doesn't happen but our nation has a history of this kind of thing. In the old south white suspects were rarely convicted of any crime against blacks and now in the inner city black juries often don't convict black suspects. Think O.J. Simpson. I think this case should have been moved out of the Penn State area.

  2. I don't think the OJ case is a reasonable comparison. In that case, the Prosecution presented a case so full of reasonable doubt holes that were it a ship in water it would have sunk like a stone, and THAT is why the jury acquitted him. Anyone who watched the debacle on television and had a modicum of knowledge, or even just skimmed "Black's Law" knew they had major problems from day 1. A better comparison would be the Casey Anthony case, where the evidence seemed rock solid, and combined with common sense, the whole world expected that horrible woman to spend her life in prison....yet...she walks free, because the jurors determined there was no "proof that the child was murdered".

  3. Ben, I agree that the trial probably should have been moved, but I don't think that any sense of solidarity that black jurors may have had with OJ is comparable to sympathy that Penn State-loving jurors might have for Sandusky. If anything, I'd think they would be antagonistic towards him for being the 'cause' of Penn State's shame. And Deb, fortunately, Sandusky doesn't have the advantage Anthony had, in terms of a victim who couldn't testify against her. Thanks for commenting.

  4. I don't wish to argue the O.J. Simpson case again but I will say that both Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson were about as guilty as any two people could possibly be. Whether either case was provable in a court of law is arguable but guilty they most certainly were.