November 14, 2011
The basic summary of tonight's national blitz with Jerry Sandusky and his attorney was: Jerry Sandusky and his attorney say he's innocent. How effectively they were in convincing America after a solid week of stories effectively portraying the former Penn State defensive coordinator as a predator is another question.
According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Sandusky is facing 25 felony counts of deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault against at least eight victims over more than a decade. The New York Times reports tonight that police are working to verify up to ten new allegations as publicity for the case convinces more victims to come forward.
On NBC's "Rock Center With Brian Williams," Sandusky told Bob Costats via phone that "I am innocent of those charges." In response to reports that then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary personally witnessed him raping a 10-year-old boy in a locker room shower in 2002 — the fallout from which eventually cost the jobs of the university president, athletic director and head coach Joe Paterno last week — Sandusky said, "I would say that's false." Asked directly if he had ever engaged in oral sex with or touched the genitals of an underage male, Sandusky said no, he had not.
But Sandusky did concede to certain allegations in the indictment, admitting that he had showered with boys, hugged them and touched them on the knees and shoulders, but also portraying it as harmless horseplay even while conceding he had made mistakes:
"I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them. I have touched their leg. Without intent of sexual contact. … I've obviously played a part in this. I shouldn't have showered with those kids. That's what hits me the most."
Of the 2002 incident that led to McQueary's allegation, specifically, Sandusky said, "We were showering and we were horsing around. [The boy] actually turned all the showers on and was sliding across the floor. And as I recall we were snapping towels." (Asked why McQueary would accuse him of rape, Sandusky said "You'd have to ask him.") Asked directly if he was sexually attracted to underage boys, Sandusky gave perhaps the most interesting — and, considering how long it took him to get around to denying it, perhaps the most incriminating — answer of the night:
"Am I sexually attracted to underage boys? [pause] Sexually attracted? No. I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. No, I'm not sexually attracted to underage boys."
Also appearing with Costas, Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, said the prosecution's charges are largely unfounded or exaggerated, and that he expects to "have some surprises for people" with alleged victims — possibly including the alleged victim in the incident McQueary reported as a rape — who will defend Sandusky: "We anticipate that we're going to have children [now adults] come forward to say that never happened." In other cases, Amendola told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an earlier broadcast, the prosecution doesn't have the alleged victims to corroborate witness testimony:
"When you take it apart, complain-by-complaint, person-by-person — because there are allegedly eight supposed victims — and you look at what the allegations are, we have answers for each one of those. Now in two or three, perhaps four of those, the allegation is that Jerry put his hand on a boy's knee in a car, got a shower with them, gave them a bear hug, all of which I might add, don't involve criminal activity even if believed.
"In two of the cases, two of the more serious allegations, they don't even have victims. They don't even have people who are saying that this is what happened. They have other people who are saying they saw something, but they don't have actual people who say, 'This is what Jerry did to me.' We're working with finding those people and when the time comes and if we're able to do that, we think this whole case will change dramatically."
As for his client, Amendola alternately described Sandusky as an aging man ("He's 67… I worry for his health") and as "a big, overgrown kid" who didn't do anything he considered outside of the ordinary for a coach working with young men:
"He's a jock. For anybody who's ever played sports, you get showers after you workout. When people hear he got showers with kids, 'Oh my goodness, you know, he got showers with kids,' that makes him guilty, right? I mean obviously anybody who get a shower with a kid who's an adult has to be guilty of something. But the bottom line is, jocks do that. They kid around, they horse around, and in fact, what Jerry says in regard to the one allegation involving the assistant coach or the grad student said he saw, he said 'we were horsing around.' He said, 'we weren't engaged in sexual activity.' "
Ultimately, that will be for a jury to decide — as a defendant, he deserves the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. If the court of public opinion had already made up its mind to cast him his monster, though, its hard to see how his first attempt at a public defense is going to help turn the tide.