In jailhouse interviews broadcast Monday, convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky laughed off the notion he was sexually abusing a young boy in a Penn State locker room in 2001, saying sex is “the last thing” he would think of about the incident that led to the firing of longtime coach Joe Paterno.
NBC’s “Today” show aired just a snippet of 31/2-hour telephone interviews Sandusky had with filmmaker John Ziegler for his project “The Framing of Joe Paterno,” which seeks to defend the late coach who Ziegler said was railroaded.
But the Paterno family’s lawyer rebuffed Ziegler’s attempts to defend Paterno using the Sandusky interviews, calling Ziegler’s work “misguided and inappropriate.” Penn State joined the fray, too, saying the remarks were an insult to abuse victims everywhere.
In one excerpt, Sandusky defended himself against the late-night February 2001 incident that then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed after he returned to the Lasch Building to drop off some new sneakers. At the trial last summer, Mike McQueary testified it was sexual in nature because of slapping sounds and the proximity of Sandusky’s body to the young boy.
“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,” a laughing Sandusky said in the recording, sneering at the word “sex.”
“I mean, there was,” Sandusky continued, pausing, “that would have been the last thing I would have thought about. I would have thought maybe fooling around or something like that.”
Sandusky has served so far about six months of a 30- to 60-year sentence for sexually abusing 10 boys, but he did not take the stand during his trial.
Ziegler said Sandusky’s voice was necessary for his film and recorded the phone calls with Sandusky’s permission. Ziegler said he plans to release more of the audio clips later.
“This is all about Joe Paterno’s alleged culpability, which I don’t believe the facts back,” said Ziegler, who runs the website framingpaterno.com and told “Today” host Matt Lauer he has no direct ties to Penn State. Referring to Paterno, “I believe he was railroaded.”
When Ziegler asked Sandusky if Paterno would have allowed Sandusky to keep coaching if he knew Sandusky were pedophile, he answered:
“If he absolutely thought I was, I’d say no. If he had a suspicion, I don’t know the answer to that.”
Ziegler said he believes Victim 2 told investigators he was not abused on the night in question.
On the show, Ziegler held up sheets of paper he said was from the young man’s interview Nov. 9, 2011, with defense attorney Joe Amendola’s investigator. The typing on the papers was not legible, and lines were redacted.
Ziegler said the young man told the investigator “nothing happened in the shower that night, that McQueary was lying, and that the investigators tried to get him to lie.”
“I’m saying he’s telling the truth on Nov. 9, 2011, and that Joe Paterno was railroaded here,” Ziegler said of Victim 2.
But there’s wide disagreement over Victim 2, who never testified at trial seemingly because neither the prosecuting attorneys nor the defense lawyers could count on him to withstand cross-examination.
Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola told the Centre Daily Times in January 2012 that a young man had come forward to him about that 2001 shower incident, but the young man later contacted local lawyer Andrew Shubin and cut off contact with Amendola.
His civil lawyers, Shubin and Justine Andronici, have said their client was subject to years of abuse, including the night in question that McQueary testified about.
The lawyers also released voicemail messages Sandusky left for Victim 2 in September 2011. Ziegler said on the show that Victim 2 was interviewed by police that month.
The lawyers responded to the interview in a statement aired by “Today.”
“Our clients, including Victim 2, have heard enough from Jerry Sandusky,” the lawyers said. “They are focused on healing and holding Penn State accountable for choosing to protect Jerry Sandusky and themselves instead of protecting children from years of horrific sexual abuse.”
The lawyer for the Paterno family, Wick Sollers, released a statement that said the family had no role in “obtaining or releasing” the audio clips that were aired Monday.
Sollers said Sandusky’s comments were “transparently self-serving and yet another insult to the victims and anyone who cares about the truth in this tragic story.”
Penn State spokesman David La Torre said Sandusky’s comments “continue to open wounds for his victims, and the victims of child sexual abuse everywhere.”
“We have tremendous respect for the men who came forward to tell their stories publicly,” La Torre said in a statement.