BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Jerry Sandusky was found guilty Friday night on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual molestation and faces up to 442 years in prison.
A jury of Sandusky's Centre County, Pa., neighbors determined that the former Penn State defensive coordinator sexually abused children over a 15-year period, using his stature as a local coaching hero and his position with the Second Mile charity to target and then violate at-risk kids from the area.
The jury deliberated for about 20 hours after a trial that stretched across eight days at Centre County Courthouse. The jury foreman read the counts and said "guilty" on six consecutive counts before saying "not guilty" for the first time. He read all 48 counts.
Sandusky, wearing a brown blazer, stood motionless with his left hand in his pocket, his eyes on the jury. His wife, Dottie, and three of his adopted sons and one adopted daughter sat to his right. Matt Sandusky, their adopted son who Thursday said Jerry Sandusky had molested him, was not present.
Sandusky, who was escorted out of the courthouse in handcuffs, will be sentenced at a later date by Judge John Cleland. The precise number of years he faces in prison is unclear, but legal experts say it should be enough to lock the 68-year-old away for life.
After the counts were read, Judge John Cleland said, "Mr. Sandusky, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers."
Victim No. 6 – one of eight victims to testify – and his family were in court. He put his head down and wept uncontrollably as the verdict was read. "I'm just overwhelmed," he said afterward.
When court was adjourned and word leaked out to a massive crowd on the steps of the courthouse, cheers rang out and were audible inside the courtroom.
"Jerry was prepared to go to jail tonight," defense attorney Joe Amendola said. "He understood that a verdict coming back on the second day [was an indication he would be found guilty]. With the circumstances of the situation and how the case progressed, it was inevitable."
[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Dan Wetzel on the Jerry Sandusky verdict]
Judge Cleland said Sandusky would be sentenced in about 90 days. Sandusky gave a quick wave to family and was taken to Centre County jail in handcuffs.
Amendola said Sandusky plans to appeal. He also said Sandusky would have testified on his own behalf had Matt Sandusky not indicated to prosecutors that he'd been abused.
"Jerry always planned to take the stand and tell his story," Amendola said. "Although Jerry and the family deny the abuse [of Matt] happened, it would have been explosive. There was no way for Jerry to testify without the prosecution being able to call Matt."
The case rocked this pristine college area when Sandusky was indicted last November. It led to the firing of iconic head football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier. Two other university officials, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, are facing criminal charges for failure to report a crime and perjury. Paterno died of lung cancer in January at age 85.
"The Board of Trustees and current administration maintain a steadfast commitment to pursuing the truth regarding Mr. Sandusky's actions," Penn State said in a statement released following the verdict. "While we cannot change what happened, we can and do accept the responsibility to take action on the societal issue of child sexual abuse – both in our community and beyond."
The state presented an overwhelming case against Sandusky. It was highlighted by powerful personal testimony from eight victims who detailed, often through sobs and gasps of breath, how Sandusky molested them in Penn State locker rooms, Sandusky's basement and hotel rooms.
Sandusky often used his access to Penn State facilities and the football program to lure pre-adolescents into situations where they were alone and the kids were vulnerable.
The state also used testimony from former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, who said he walked in on Sandusky and a boy in the locker room showers in 2001, and hearsay testimony from two Penn State janitors who said a third janitor – now senile – saw a similar incident in 2000.
The defense acknowledged from the start it faced a considerable challenge and tried to paint Sandusky as an innocent victim of a grand conspiracy of police and financially motivated victims.
"There are lots of people sitting in jails all across this country who are innocent – lots of people over the years who have been executed for murder and later determined to be innocent," Amendola said to jeers from the crowd gathered around the courthouse. "What this proves to me is, I believe the jury acted genuinely. I believe the jury acted in good faith. … I don't have any problem with the jury. We had a good jury."
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