BELLEFONTE — Jerry Sandusky never thought the accusations of child abuse against him would crush the Penn State football program where he once played and coached and which he helped bring to national prominence.
The former defensive coordinator and convicted pedophile was “absolutely beside himself” when his attorney told him about the NCAA’s harsh sanctions, the attorney said Wednesday.
“He’s extremely distraught about what’s happened at Penn State,” Sandusky’s attorney Joe Amendola said in an interview with the Centre Daily Times at the Centre County Courthouse.
“He never, never dreamed that anything he was accused of doing would have this type of impact on Penn State — not only athletics, but the university as a whole,” Amendola said.
The NCAA sanctions on the Nittany Lions, including a multiyear bowl ban for the football team, erasing 112 wins over 14 years and a $60 million fine, came down after the Louis Freeh investigation concluded that senior university leaders concealed abuse allegations against Sandusky because they didn’t want to risk bad publicity.
Amendola said he and Sandusky find Freeh’s conclusion about a cover-up to be a galling accusation. Amendola criticized the report for not having subpoena power to make people testify under oath as well as its lack of completeness, given that several people were not interviewed, such as former athletic director Tim Curley and retired administrator Gary Schultz, who are facing trial, accused of lying to the grand jury investigating Sandusky, or even Mike McQueary, the grad assistant in 2001 who witnessed a shower incident.
Amendola has a suggestion: “I think everyone should try to remember that Jerry was a part of that football program for 30 years and played football for Penn State in the early ’60s,” he said.
Amendola said Sandusky “was a critical part of the rise of prominence of Penn State football with the national championships in ’82 and ’86.”
Sandusky maintains his innocence, Amendola said, and wife Dottie Sandusky supported her husband during a brief interview on a Bellefonte street last week with the Centre Daily Times.
She said she loves her husband and doesn’t believe the accusations against him.
Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 counts in June. He’s awaiting his sentencing in the Centre County Correctional Facility, is isolated from other inmates at the jail and doesn’t have much contact with the outside world, Amendola said.
Amendola said he’s the one who’s relaying information to the former assistant football coach.
The attorney, known for unconventional handling of the case such as putting Sandusky on national TV in an interview that was used against him at trial, has been largely quiet since the verdict came back late the night of June 22. Amendola said Sandusky’s family asked him to step back and let things cool down.
Amendola said Sandusky was shocked and devastated to learn that previously unidentified Victim 2 had come forward. Through the young man’s civil attorneys, Victim 2 alleged that he was abused before and after the 2001 shower incident that seems to have taken on a life of its own as the case, and its fallout, have played out over the past nine months.
In the meantime, in his cell, Sandusky is writing his account of the incidents that eight young men testified about at trial. A document like this can be included in a typical pre-sentence investigative report compiled by the county’s Probation and Parole Office.
Amendola expects Sandusky to make a statement at his sentencing, whether it’s reading the account or presenting it to Senior Judge John Cleland.
“He had looked forward to testifying at his trial, and because of unforeseen circumstances, that didn’t happen,” Amendola said. “Jerry views his sentence as an opportunity for him to tell his side of this.”
Sandusky never testified because one of his adopted sons came forward with abuse allegations during the trial. Matt Sandusky met with investigators during the trial, and a recording of the interview was leaked to the media, revealing that Matt Sandusky was alleging being touched and rubbed, but not engaged in sex.
The reality, Amendola said, is that Jerry Sandusky is certainly going to face many, many years in prison because of the severity of all the counts. Amendola said he’ll likely ask for his sentences to run together, but he knows that’s unlikely.
The attorney for Victim 5 said it is “unthinkable” that Sandusky could get leniency given “the colossal damage caused by him” to the children, his community and Penn State.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said specific requests will be made at the sentencing hearing.
“We will urge the court to craft a sentence that ensures Mr. Sandusky will never again be able to victimize a child,” said spokesman Nils Frederiksen.
Despite his world coming down on him, Sandusky is trying to be in “good spirits,” Amendola said.
And defense attorneys are working on appeal matters so they are ready to file immediately after sentencing.
“He’s hopeful that he’ll get a new trial on appeal,” Amendola said. “He’s continuing to keep his spirits up as best he can.”
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT