BELLEFONTE, Pa. – It was late on a long, hot day inside the Centre County Courthouse, and Jerry Sandusky's defense against sexual molestation charges already had been rocked by powerful, personal testimony of an indomitable witness.
As the first day of the trial churned through an afternoon of testimony, Sandusky's attorney Joe Amendola kept grasping at straws, kept seeking angles to prop up his client as a kind-hearted guy who was the victim of overaggressive police and money-hungry accusers.
So he tried to take the words of the trial's first witness, known as Victim No. 4 in court documents, and spin them around. Earlier Monday, the witness, who was a weak 13-year-old boy when he met Sandusky but is now a no-nonsense 28-year-old man, had said the former Penn State defensive coordinator treated him "like a son."
Victim No. 4 just shook his head and dismissed the suggestion that anything positive could be gleaned from the description.
"He treated me like a son in front of other people," the witness said, sternly, with an air of scolding toward the defense attorney.
"Aside from that, he treated me like his girlfriend."
As gasps were audibly heard in the courtroom for a line straight off a movie script, Amendola paused, shuffled his notes and kept fumbling as the witness maintained his steely posture.
Unless the defense has a plan to later recall the witness and catch him in multiple lies, there were almost no positives to the day for Sandusky. It was a bludgeoning, as if the witness had been waiting 15 years to rain down these stories on his alleged perpetrator and wasn't going to miss a single opportunity to go for the throat.
The witness vividly detailed what he estimated were at least 40 acts of inappropriate sexual contact in the Penn State football locker room showers alone – games of "soap battles" and wrestling matches turning into repeated attempts at oral and anal sex.
Amendola didn't even attempt to counter those accusations, which were equal parts powerful and painful to hear.
Sandusky, 68, is facing 52 counts based on using his Second Mile charity and his stature within Penn State football to sexual molest 10 children over a 15-year period. He's maintained his innocence, although even Amendola acknowledged in his opening arguments Monday morning that the state possessed "overwhelming evidence."
And that was before the jury of 12 heard from the state's first witness, clad in crew cut, white dress shirt and a dark tie. Yahoo! Sports will not name the alleged victims.
Over nearly five hours Victim No. 4 recapped how Sandusky first met him when he was a somewhat troubled teenager at a Second Mile charity picnic. When a bunch of kids went swimming in a lake, Sandusky joined them, and during a game where he'd throw the children in the air, the witness first realized something was wrong.
"[He'd] kind of [pretend] like he was having trouble getting a good grip," the witness said. "And as he was grabbing you he would brush your genitals and then throw you."
Without a positive male role model in his life, the boy clung to Sandusky, who offered attention, gifts, trips and unheard of access to Penn State football, including team locker rooms, charter flights, hotels, bowl trips and sideline passes. He was constantly around star players.
The trade off was workouts at Penn State, maybe basketball or racquetball, maybe just general exercise. No matter what worked up the sweat, it was washed off during two-person shower sessions in either the old football coaches' locker room or the team's new main shower room. Those would descend into groping, forced contact with private parts and even absurd "wrestling" matches, where the burly Sandusky would pin the 90-pound boy in any compromising position he wanted.
"Combination of the oral sex or just groping me," the witness said. "Sometimes there would be no oral sex that would happen but he'd be between my thighs kissing them like I was a girl."
Time and time again he kept delivering these bombs, lines so perfect it's like he'd been spending years rehearsing for the day he might get to deliver them.
He laid Sandusky out, often staring right into the defendant's face, calling him by name and controlling Amendola on cross examination like it was actually he that was the experienced defense attorney.
He expressed repeated regret at not running from Sandusky, but noted it was because of fear, confusion and an acute understanding that he'd be mocked at school.
"It's not that simple, you just [can't] say, 'OK, I'm done.'" There was also the odd mix of being so excited about getting to be part of the Penn State program ("I was like the mascot") that he could block out the shower sessions.
"I thought, I didn't want to lose this," the witness said. "This is something good happening to me. I didn't have a dad."
He ripped Sandusky for sending him "creepy love letters" – handwritten on Penn State stationery – that Amendola tried to define as attempts by a mentor to keep a potentially wayward soul from going down the wrong path.
The witness instead noted they only started coming when he turned 16 and was strong enough to attempt to end the relationship. It was then, he said, Sandusky panicked and began sending letters and making emotional phone calls, like a heartbroken lover.
Later, when Amendola inexplicably had the witness read them in open court, Victim No. 4 used the tone of his voice to convey further condemnation at both defendant and his representation.
"I know that I have made several mistakes," the witness read Sandusky's words from one letter. "However, I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart. My wish is that you would call …"
And another: "I write because of the churning of my own stomach when you don't care. I write because I still hope that there will be meaningful time when we know each other."
Most were signed: "Jer."
Then there were "contracts" supposedly under the auspices of The Second Mile (which an administrator for the charity later testified were fake) that required the witness participate in a variety of activities with Sandusky, including more of those workouts where a trip to the shower room or sauna always followed. Amendola tried to use the documents to show Sandusky genuinely cared.
"Clearly," the witness snapped at Amendola, "that is a contract to get me to be around him more."
Amendola was a flailing mess by the end. He seemed unprepared for the cross examination, routinely getting dates and facts wrong and leading the witness into retelling the disturbing tales of abuse in the shower room. If he doesn't have a plan to catch the witness in repeated and profound lies, this made no sense.
It's difficult to tell where the defense will go from here. Seven more alleged victims are scheduled to testify. Amendola noted in opening arguments that Sandusky would defend himself, "in his own words," setting up the prospect of a wild stretch of testimony.
On Monday, Amendola kept opening doors that blew up on him, violating a cardinal rule of cross examination, which is not to ask a question you don't know the answer to. Once, when arguing Sandusky helped with a school homework assignment, the witness said Sandusky actually wrote the entire thing, allowing him to cheat. Another time, he said Sandusky purchased two cartons of cigarettes for him when he was 15.
Then there was the time the witness bought marijuana.
"[Sandusky] drove me there," the witness said.
Did Sandusky know what you bought, Amendola asked?
"I smoked it right in front of him in his car," the witness said.
The witness didn't help Penn State, either. He said four assistant coaches saw him showering with Sandusky at different times although no sexual activity occurred at that time because from the shower they could hear someone working the coaches locker room lock, giving Sandusky time to step away.
At one point, the witness said former assistant coach Tom Bradley got into the showers with Sandusky and the boy. The witness said he believed Bradley was "suspicious," and did it to assure the boy's safety, refusing to leave until Sandusky did first.
Also Monday, Penn State acknowledged an NBC report about an email exchange between top university officials regarding accusations by assistant coach Mike McQueary that Sandusky raped another victim. Former school president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz decided that not alerting the police would be "humane" to Sandusky.
It's the smoking gun that critics of the university have been waiting for since this scandal broke.
As for Sandusky and Amendola, they can only hope a new dawn brings new hope. Trials aren't won or lost on the first day, but this was undoubtedly bad.
One hard-minded accuser unleashed years of buried anger and hidden emotions on their cross-examination strategy.
A kid who once cowered in front of Jerry Sandusky was all grown up Monday afternoon, strong, fearless and unafraid of telling it all on good old Jer.
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