Jerry Sandusky sentenced to at least 30 years in prison
From Susan Candiotti and Jason Carroll
BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (CNN) — Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, after a judge handed down a prison sentence Tuesday for his convictions on child sexual abuse charges.
Judge John Cleland said Sandusky, 68, will face no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison — meaning he is not eligible for parole for 30 years. He is being given credit for 112 days already served.
Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, and faced a maximum of 400 years in prison.
His attorneys have 10 days to appeal the decision. They have already vowed to appeal his conviction.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Cleland also designated Sandusky as a sexually violent offender. Sandusky said he did not oppose the status but maintained his innocence.
One of his attorneys told CNN before the hearing that Sandusky’s legal team would not contest the classification, but would stipulate that they disagree with it.
The label will help determine his classification in prison, where he will be housed, and the programs in which he will be required to participate, said Jean Casarez of HLN’s “InSession.”
Sandusky entered the courthouse Tuesday wearing a red jumpsuit with a bullet-proof vest underneath. Though he was handcuffed, he clutched a manila envelope and smiled briefly as he got out of a police vehicle. His wife, Dottie, arrived in the parking lot moments earlier.
One of Sandusky’s victims, known as Victim No. 5, addressed the court during his sentencing.
“The sentence will never erase what he did to me. It will never make me whole,” the victim said.
Sandusky meanwhile, insisted several times in court, “I did not do these disgusting acts.”
“This is the time when you find out who your friends are in the fourth quarter, those who stand by you,” he said, employing a football analogy.
Sandusky spoke for about 13 minutes.
After the sentencing decision was announced, the university’s president released a statement.
“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said. “While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”
Sandusky had pleaded his case in an audio statement Monday in which he protested his innocence and insisted he was falsely accused.
“They could take away my life, they could make me out as a monster, they could treat me as a monster, but they can’t take away my heart,” the former assistant coach said in the recording. “In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts.”
He accused the judge of bringing the case to trial too quickly, the victims of conspiring together, and the attorneys of trying to make money in future civil suits.
Members of Sandusky’s defense team have long maintained that they were denied sufficient time to prepare.
Tom Kline, an attorney for the person identified in court as Victim No. 5, called Sandusky’s recording “preposterous.”
“If you are to believe Mr. Sandusky, then we have the grand conspiracy, which his lawyers attempted to play out in the court, which involved 10 young men, a janitor, Mr. (Mike) McQueary, the press, the lawyers and everyone else who’s involved,” Kline told CNN.
“The fact of the matter is that there was no collusion whatsoever. My client came forward only after there was a knock on the door by the police, which led him to a grand jury room. He had never spoken to anyone. He told his story.”
McQueary, a former Penn State assistant football, testified that he saw Sandusky in a shower with an underage boy. He filed a whistleblower lawsuit last week against the university, according to a court document from Centre County, Pennsylvania.
Sandusky co-counsel Karl Rominger said of his client’s audio recording, “If he wants to say that, God bless the First Amendment.”
Penn State University’s ComRadio first aired the audio clip on its website Monday evening.
An attorney for Victim No. 4 said Sandusky should at last confess his guilt.
“One thing that’s critical for victims’ healing is an acknowledgment of guilt. (Sandusky) is stunting that healing,” attorney Ben Andreozzi said. “He is either delusional or the victim of one of the most comprehensive conspiracies of mankind.”
The attorney for a man who claims he was repeatedly sexually abused by Sandusky while a child said the statement is a reminder that child predators justify their actions.
“Pedophiles often believe they did not do anything wrong. In their twisted universe, they helped their victims and loved them,” said Marci Hamilton, who represents Travis Weaver, now 30. Weaver did not testify in Sandusky’s trial, but did file a civil action against the former coach.
It has been nearly a year since the Penn State scandal erupted, leading to the firing of iconic head football coach Joe Paterno and the ouster of the university’s longtime president.
Jurors determined in June that Sandusky, former defensive coordinator, used his access to university facilities and his foundation for under-privileged youth to sexually abuse the boys.
On June 22, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse, ranging from corruption of minors to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, which were laid out in graphic testimony by his accusers over the course of the less-than-two-week trial.
Members of Sandusky’s family, including his wife Dottie, planned to submit letters of support to the court as did some participants in the Second Mile foundation, Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola said.
During the trial, which garnered national attention and cast a shadow on Penn State’s heralded football program, the 23-year-old Victim No. 4 testified that he was only 13 when Sandusky sexually abused him in a university shower.
That account is separate from a 2001 incident that McQueary testified about, saying he saw the former coach pressed up against the back of a boy in the shower room of the Lasch Football Building.
Prosecutors described during the trial how Sandusky showered with the boy, using locker room “soap fights” as a pretext for abuse.
Sandusky’s attorneys argued that the jury’s opinions in the case were tainted by a prosecution reference to a disturbing interview their client did with NBC’s Bob Costas prior to the trial.
But CNN legal contributor Paul Callan called Sandusky’s audio statement Monday night another “horrible mistake” akin to the Costas interview and one that likely won’t sit well with the judge.
“If Sandusky wanted to give a press interview and tell his side of the story after sentencing, believe me, everyone is looking to talk to him,” Callan said. “So why wouldn’t you wait, do this in a dignified way, hope for the lowest possible sentence and then take your case to the public?”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Less than a month after Sandusky’s conviction, former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his university-funded report that blamed Paterno, university President Graham Spanier, suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz for taking part in a cover-up to avoid bad publicity.
Freeh also said Paterno could have stopped the attacks had he done more, though neither McQueary, Sandusky nor Paterno — who died in January — were interviewed by his investigators.
Attorneys for Spanier blasted the review, calling it a “blundering, indefensible indictment” and “a flat-out distortion of facts” that was “infused with bias and innuendo.”
In July, the NCAA imposed sanctions against Penn State, including a $60 million fine, scholarship reductions, the vacating of 112 wins of the football team, five years’ probation and a bowl ban for four years.
CNN’s Ross Levitt and Ed Payne contributed to this report
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