Jerry Sandusky’s halting, rasping, decrepit voice seeped out from a Pennsylvania prison via NBC’s "Today Show" and it was about as pointless and pathetic as you might imagine.
Only approximately one minute of sound was played from phone conversations recorded between Sandusky and John Ziegler, a filmmaker and former radio show host who says he is working to clear the name of Sandusky’s former boss, Penn State coach Joe Paterno, even as the Paterno family itself slammed the interview and made it apparent they are not fans of Ziegler.
The brief audio clips were Sandusky’s first statements since being convicted in June 2012 of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He’s currently serving 30-to-60 years in Greene State Prison in the state’s southwest corner.
Ziegler says he conducted three and a half hours of interviews with the Nittany Lions' former defensive coordinator. Sandusky has turned down all media requests for comment since being found guilty. He previously refused to testify under oath at his trial.
When asked if Paterno would have allowed Sandusky to continue to coach if Paterno suspected Sandusky was a pedophile, Sandusky stated:
“If he [Paterno] absolutely thought I was [a pedophile], I'd say no. If he had a suspicion, I don't know the answer to that.”
Sandusky also discussed the testimony of Mike McQueary, who as a Penn State football graduate assistant, testified he walked into an otherwise closed locker room late on a Friday night in 2001 and saw Sandusky in an “extreme sexual position” with a boy in the shower.
“I don't understand how anybody would have walked into that locker room from where he was and heard sounds associated that was sex going on,” Sandusky said before breaking out into a laugh. “Like he said that could've been … I mean, that would have been the last thing I would have thought about. I would have thought maybe fooling around or something like that.”
Sandusky then laughed again.
Sandusky also discussed the entire legal process and McQueary’s testimony:
“I think there’s a lot of things that transpired,” Sandusky said. “I think these investigators, the way they went about business, his story changed a lot. I think he said some things and then it escalated on him even. There’s a lot of suggestive questioning.”
That was it for the "Today Show."
Ziegler says he is championing Paterno – "I'm trying to get Joe Paterno, effectively, his day in court,” he said on NBC. Paterno passed away in January 2012 and has been criticized for not doing more to stop or to even look into Sandusky. The school took down a statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium in the summer of 2012.
The NCAA, as part of wide-ranging sanctions against the Nittany Lions' program, stripped him of all victories obtained after 1998.
The Paterno family appears to be distancing itself from Ziegler. It issued a statement condemning the use of the interview, noting Sandusky refused to testify and claiming this is just “another insult to the victims and anyone who cares about the truth in this tragic story.”
“The Paterno family would prefer to remain silent on this matter, but they feel it is important to make clear they had no role in obtaining or releasing this recording,” the statement said. “Moreover, they believe that any attempt to use this recording as a defense of Joe Paterno is misguided and inappropriate.”
Ziegler called that statement “sad.”
In a statement, Ziegler also said that when one of Paterno’s sons, Scott, heard Ziegler had spoken with Sandusky, “He engaged in a 15-minute, profanity-filled tirade full of false accusations, multiple threats, and zero substantive questions before hanging up on me.” Ziegler claimed the words of the "central figure" in the case are important. He also blamed Joe Paterno and the family for a slow reaction to the original grand jury indictment of Sandusky.
Ziegler is looking to acquire financing for a full-length documentary to clear Joe Paterno’s name.
He also issued a statement to the media advising them on “How to do a hit piece on John Ziegler.” That statement, released before the "Today Show" appearance, suggests Ziegler was going to state, on the air, the name of so-called Victim No. 2 – the boy in the shower with Sandusky. NBC’s Matt Lauer, however, reminded him in clear and direct language that such a thing would not be allowed due to company standards to not identify the victims of sexual assault.
With so little coming from Sandusky, the "Today Show" piece seemed to be mostly about Ziegler, who is looking to discuss Paterno while Lauer wanted to discuss Sandusky.
“I have no doubt that Jerry Sandusky was guilty of many of the things, if not all the things, he was accused of,” Ziegler said. “I do believe there was due process problems with the trial.”
Confused? Yes, pretty much everyone would be after that televised train wreck of a segment that yielded little, if any, worthwhile information. Well, other than Sandusky sounds about as terrible as you’d imagine.
As for the substance of his statements, Sandusky’s opinions and recollections on Paterno, McQueary or anyone else carry very little water because he still denies he ever abused anyone and is still appealing his sentence. His credibility under those circumstances is non-existent.
Eight victims, once boys, now men, took the stand in Bellefonte, Pa., last June and described in painstaking, emotional detail repeated acts of sexual assault from the now 69-year-old Sandusky.
Those remain the voices of this trial, no matter whether NBC thinks broadcasting a few clips of second-hand phone conversations was a good idea.
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