Dottie Sandusky was “shocked” to hear the guilty verdicts against her husband, Jerry, and now, almost two years later, she remains absolutely convinced that he is innocent, the wife said in a TV interview Wednesday on the “Today” show.
“Do I believe him?” Dottie Sandusky told NBC’s Matt Lauer in response to the same question on the “Today” show. “I definitely believe him, because if I didn’t believe him, I would’ve — when I testified at trial, I could have not said what I said.”
A soft-spoken, sometimes tearful Dottie Sandusky said she agreed to an interview as a way to continue supporting her husband. At his trial in June 2012, she testified that her husband was not a child molester, she reiterated her confidence in him in a brief encounter with the Centre Daily Times a month later, and she continued to defend him during the interviewed recorded this week in her College Township home.
Dottie Sandusky acknowledged that her defense of her husband will not be received well in the court of popular opinion, and she said her doubts over the sex abuse allegations stem from the testimonies of the victims at trial. She accused them of being motivated by money and indicated she felt betrayed by some who she said were close family friends that turned on her and her husband.
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“I have known Jerry for 38 years,” she said. “We’ve always been truthful with each other, and he is not guilty of these horrific crimes that he has been charged with.
“He would have admitted to this if he had done what they said they think he’s done.”
Dottie Sandusky was joined in the interview by filmmaker John Ziegler, who said he’ll devote the rest of his life to her husband’s case.
Jerry Sandusky’s defense lawyer is asking the state’s Supreme Court to take up his appeal. Last year, the state Superior Court denied the appeal.
Sandusky is serving a 30-year minimum sentence in the maximum-security state prison in Greene County, on the outskirts of Waynesburg. He’s put in about a year and a half toward the sentence, and he spends all but one hour a day inside his cell.
“It doesn’t seem fair that he is in his cell 23 hours a day, Monday through Friday,” said Dottie Sandusky, who drives more than three hours once a week to visit her husband.
She said he’s remained upbeat, despite his predicament, and that he spends his time meditating, reading, writing and watching TV — the latter being a “lifesaver” for him. She said he misses most the dinners with his family and socializing with friends.
The case, which has attracted national attention and led to the firing of longtime Penn State coach Joe Paterno, has been “tough” on her children, she said.
“They all have families, and it’s been rough on them,” she said. “We’re a close family.”
Despite the notoriety of the case and the infamy of her husband, Dottie Sandusky said she continues on with her life as much as she can. She admitted that certain friends have distanced themselves at the advice of their lawyers, such as those from The Second Mile charity, which her husband founded, but she makes the most of her situation, too.
She’ll go out to eat, to the gym, to the grocery store — “I do what we normally did,” she said.
Dottie Sandusky also was asked whether she was in denial or delusional because of her support for her husband. She was quick to answer, authoritatively: “I know who I am, and I know who Jerry is,” she said.
She remained confident as the interview with Lauer touched on more difficult topics, such as the abuse allegations.
She said she didn’t think anything at the time of the 1998 shower incident involving the young man known as Victim 6 from the grand jury presentment. It was not prosecuted in 1998.
Dottie Sandusky said her husband told her about it when it happened. She said she didn’t think anything of it because it wasn’t sexual, and that was something she already knew her husband did.
“I didn’t think anything about it because he’s showered with our kids. … That’s the kind of person he is,” she said. “He thinks of everybody as a friend.”
She backtracked somewhat when Lauer asked her if she would find it inappropriate if a grown man showered with one of her kids.
“I would guess that I would, but I don’t necessarily know that that happened,” she responded.
The most infamous of the shower incidents in the grand jury presentment was that involving a boy in 2001. He’s referred to Victim 2 in the presentment, who was “like a son to us,” she said.
Her explanation for why they made the accusations against her husband: money.
“I think it was, they were manipulated, and they saw money,’’ she said. “Once lawyers came into the case, they said there was money.”
The money theory was one raised throughout Jerry Sandusky’s court hearings leading up to the trial, but once the trial started, the theory didn’t get a lot of traction.
Penn State and 26 men agreed to settlements worth a combined $59.7 million. It’s not known exactly who settled with Penn State, as the university has never publicly identified them.
Dottie Sandusky said she does not believe some of the testimonies of the young men at trial. She said there were discrepancies and encouraged people to read the trial transcripts available online.
“I’m not saying that the accusers lied, but I’m saying that I don’t believe their stories,” the wife said. “There is evidence that cannot be let out at this time that their stories are not true.”
The “Today” show also aired a clip of Dottie Sandusky showing Lauer a bedroom in her home’s finished basement. It’s the place where Jerry Sandusky had boys sleep when they spent the night at his house, and several of them testified that they did so.
One of the young men testified that he screamed for help when Jerry Sandusky was molesting him and Dottie Sandusky was upstairs and didn’t hear him.
Dottie Sandusky disputed his story, saying “because he didn’t scream.” Lauer also pointed out that the bedroom is at the base of the stairs.
Abuse survivor advocates slammed NBC for showing footage of the infamous basement. On Twitter, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape tweeted that the segment showed “incredible insensitivity.” The director of the state office for victim advocates, Jennifer Storm, called it “morally reprehensible.”
Negative reaction to the interview from the general public was immediate.
One woman tweeted that it “just shows how powerful denial really is when emotions get in the way of facts and logic,” and another called the wife “disturbing and evil for having zero remorse and claiming his innocence.”