Public guests call Jerry Sandusky sentencing emotional, ‘historic’

Centre Daily TimesOctober 9, 2012 

— Joan Renaldi felt a pang of guilt walking from the Centre County Courthouse on Tuesday morning.

Renaldi and a friend, Beth Aumiller, traveled from Lewistown to be among the 85 members of the public allowed to watch as Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to spend what likely will be the rest of his life in prison.

Both women felt justice was served by a sentence that will keep the 68-year-old behind bars for at least 30 years. But there was more.

“We actually feel guilty because we recommended kids go to The Second Mile,” said Renaldi, a former teacher. “That’s heart-wrenching.”

Sandusky used The Second Mile, a charity he founded to help at-risk children, as a pipeline to find his victims, prosecutors alleged during his trial.

The former Penn State assistant coach was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys he met through the organization, sometimes on campus.

Sandusky denied the charges to the very end, speaking on his own behalf before the sentence was handed down.

“People were shaking their heads in disbelief because he still doesn’t get it,” Aumiller said of the mood in the courtroom Tuesday. “I don’t understand why he doesn’t get that he’s done this. He’s a sick man.”

Senior Judge John Cleland said Sandusky was adept at hiding his actions, a hallmark of pedophiles. “It’s your ability to conceal those vices from yourself and everyone else that makes you dangerous,” Cleland said during sentencing.

“I think the judge nailed it on the head when he said (Sandusky) was a master of deceit,” said Ken Foukles, who traveled from Stroudsburg to watch the proceedings.

“He’s most dangerous out there because he could conceal this, even from the people he loved,” Foukles said.

Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, and other members of his family continue to support him, and they sat through the sentencing. Sandusky’s voice cracked Tuesday morning when he talked about his wife.

“(Dottie’s) a lot like Jerry,” said neighbor Paul Kletchka, who was also in the courtroom. “I think we’re left wondering: What is she really like? We thought we knew both of them.”

Others who didn’t know Sandusky lined up early to be sure they received one of the seats set aside for public in the courthouse.

Mary Noel Jordan said she sat outside the courthouse for hours “to see justice done.” Jordan drove up from Hershey late Monday night.

She arrived just after midnight, and was near the front of the line, alongside Nellie Lykens, of Bellefonte.

“I wanted to hear Jerry’s side of the story,” Lykens said. “You can read a lot. But now I’ll hear it for myself.”

In the hours before the 9 a.m. session, the public line stretched down the north steps of the courthouse and along the sidewalk, beside the closest of the many media trucks parked on High Street.

A long line of reporters waited, too, with members of the media extending from the main entrance down the steps to the south toward the burned-out shell of the Hotel Do De.

“I wanted to be here for this historic moment,” said Penn State freshman Ryan Belz, positioned to be the first member of the public to enter the courthouse.

Belz, of Millerton, Tioga County, said he arrived at 10:30 p.m. Monday.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, to be here to witness this,” Belz said.

Lykens said her her thoughts were with the victims, some of whom spoke during Tuesday’s sentencing.

“This case affected the whole community,” she said. “Anybody with a heart was moved by this.”

Foukles said emotions ran high in the courtroom when several young men addressed the court, standing before the man who abused them years ago.

“The people in front of us were crying,” he said. “There were a lot of people upset — feeling really sorry for the people abused by a guy who got away with it (for too long.)”

John Mentzell, of Potter Township, said a hush spread across the courtroom in the moments before Cleland handed down the sentence.

“There was an emotion — you could feel it,” he said. “Everyone was craning their necks to look at Jerry Sandusky to see how he was — to see if he was still smirking.”

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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