Monday, June 11, 2012

Jerry Sandusky in the Dock: New Lows and a Lingering Stench

So here we go. The Jerry Sandusky trial has begun in Pennsylvania and before it is over many a stomach will turn and the cringing will be wide spread and unceasing. Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coach, is charged with 52 counts of sexually abusing up to 10 boys over a 15 year period. Two separate grand juries have accused him of using his connections with the once proud and pristine Penn State football program to lure them into his Second Mile Foundation where he slowly groomed them to be his sexual victims.

Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan, a deputy attorney general said in his opening remarks that the state will show, "systematic behavior by a predator." Those are ugly words, but then the whole sordid affair is ugly beyond all description. It is so bad that it brought down venerable Penn State coach Joe Paterno and at least three different PSU administrators, some of whom might be facing criminal charges themselves. Covering up a recruiting scandal or some alum's cash gift to a player is one thing. At many U.S. college football programs those sorts of things are considered simply the price of doing business. However turning your head the other way while your facilities are being used as a lurid Roman spa by some run amok pedophile is another animal all together. Not even the nearly beatified Paterno could survive the outrage.

First day testimony included one victim saying he endured up to 40 "uncomfortable incidents" when he was 12 and 13 years old. Things began with mutual showers, then moved on to hugging, caressing, rolling around on the floor and finally to having his hand placed on Sandusky's genitalia and of course attempted sexual penetration. The witness said Sandusky treated him as his girl friend, often placing his hand on his knee. He was also awarded with numerous gifts from Sandusky and was worried that those gifts would cease if he said anything about the behavior.

What does one say in the face of this? Well defense attorney, Joe Amendola says the reason for all these claims and charges is brutally simple. The accusers in his words are, "troubled youths out for a big pay day." He points out that six of the eight prosecution witnesses who claim abuse at Sandusky's hands have all ready filed civil suits. He says, "the testimony is going to be awful, but that doesn't make it true."

Ah, there you have it. This is all one huge shake down, although it is unclear where the big pay day would come from. The only possible source would be the university itself, because The Second Mile Foundation has shut down. It is uncertain where any unspent money it once had might be found. And quite honestly you wouldn't expect Sandusky himself to be that fabulously well to do. However, if you're Amendola you have to say something right? Especially when your client is looking at 460 years in the joint and a life expectancy of about thirty minutes if turned loose in the yard with the general population of just about any prison in America.

Amendola even surprised those in attendance by listing Sandusky as a possible witness. Desperate times call for desperate measures. You are talking about a high risk maneuver that most lawyers would never even consider.

The prosecution, however doesn't have clear sailing either. It plans on calling former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary to the stand. McQuery is the guy who told Paterno about a lewd scene in the Penn State locker room between Sandusky and an unnamed youth. Paterno told his boss who told someone else who didn't tell the cops and that is why the entire university looks complicit in this deal. The problem is McQueary has changed the details of his testimony and the time line is problematic. McQueary insists the incident happened in March of 2002 while prosecutors are saying it occurred in February of 2001.

Yes, it is a tale of degeneracy and in the end institutional cowardice. It isn't going away anytime soon either. If convicted you can expect a long freight train of appeals from the Sandusky legal team. If there is a hung jury bets are the prosecution won't give up after one trial. If Mr. Sandusky is acquitted he will personally survive, but just about everything else in his life will have gone to hell. His only hope will be a decent pension plan because the man is at this moment permanently unemployable. He will have to disappear into the depths of the South American rain forest to escape the hounding he is going to receive from the media and others.

No matter what the outcome we're all going to want to scrub our hands and we're going to want to scrub them often. This grotesque stench is going to linger. Especially on the campus of Penn State University. Happy Valley no more.


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