BELLEFONTE, Pa. – A jury has informed Judge John Cleland it has reached a verdict on the 48 counts of child sex abuse against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Judge Cleland earlier issued a ruling banning those in the Centre County, Pa., courtroom from communicating the verdict to anyone outside the courtroom until all 48 counts are read and court is adjourned.
The jury of seven women and five men was charged with determining whether the 68-year-old Sandusky 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 trial stretched over eight days and the jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon. One juror, a woman, was excused Wednesday because of illness and replaced by another woman.
The case rocked this pristine college area when Sandusky was indicted last November. It led to the firing of iconic Penn State 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 state presented what legal experts considered a strong case against Sandusky. It was highlighted by powerful personal testimony from eight victims who detailed, often through sobs and gasps of breath, how the former coach molested them in Penn State locker rooms, Sandusky's basement and hotel rooms.
Sandusky is alleged to have 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 jury asked to review McQueary's testimony Friday morning.
The defense acknowledged from the start it faced a considerable challenge and portrayed Sandusky as an innocent victim of a grand conspiracy of police and financially motivated victims.
"We were facing such an uphill battle," defense attorney Joe Amendola said after closing arguments. "It was like climbing Mt. Everest from the base. We just tried to get to an even playing field."
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