Bearing Witness: The Trial of Jerry Sandusky (Day 1)
Today, I attended the first day of testimony in the trial of Jerry Sandusky. Here is a rundown of how the day went.
I arrived at the courthouse around 6:15 a.m. There were probably 8 or so people in line at that time. I was 9th in line and the following is a cross-section of who I met:
The attorney for Penn State – She was there first (probably since 4:45 a.m.). Her role is to collect information for the upcoming civil suit against PSU.
A Penn State student who had the day off and decided to come to day one of testimony,
Christopher Anderson from MaleSurvivor and two of his colleagues,
A woman affiliated with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), although she was from the national level NSVR
Chris Gavagan, a fellow survivor and activist, currently working on a documentary entitled Coached Into Silence based on his experiences and that of other children abused in youth sports programs.
And finally, perhaps most importantly, two attorneys for the victims. I introduced myself and told them of our plan to put together these messages for the victims. They immediately gave me their contact information and thanked me profusely for being there in support of their clients. They said they would let them know of the hundreds of us who stand behind them as they take the witness stand.
I mention this to show how many people were there in support of the victims. Granted, the majority of “public” were additional media people who didn’t get media credentials, I was pleased to see a large contingent of fellow survivors there in support of these brave young men.
We entered the courtroom and were seated by 8:30 a.m. Judge Cleland entered and spent about 50 minutes talking to the jury about their role, describing different aspects of the process that would be followed and continually reminding them of their duty to avoid media since they aren’t sequestered, concluding his statements by sequestering witnesses, disallowing them from hearing testimony. At this time, Dottie Sandusky and Matt Sandusky stood up and were removed to the back hall, out of the courtroom.
Prosecutor Joseph Megettigan then proceeded with opening statements. Speaking for about an hour, he outlined the prosecution’s case. Reminding jurors to keep in mind the ages the victims were when the abuse occurred. To this end, as he introduced each of the 8 victims testifying, he displayed a picture of them when they were 10, 11, 12, 13, around the age they were when they met Jerry Sandusky.
Next, Joe Amendola gave his opening statement, speaking for about 45 minutes reminding the jury that there are no “victims” in this case but accusers. And that there are no victims at all unless and until the jury finds the defendant guilty. It could be possible that the prosecution won’t convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore there would be no victims. He spoke about victims lawyering up and alluded to the fact that they may be in it for money. He did state, multiple times in his introduction, that Jerry Sandusky will testify. (It will be interesting if he does in fact take the stand…)
The Reason We’re Here
Possibly TriggeringThe prosecution called its first witness – known as “Victim 4″. A young man who first met Jerry Sandusky at a Second Mile camp at Penn State. He was at a week long football camp and was sharing a dorm room with someone Jerry Sandusky knew. Jerry came to their room to talk to that kid and introduced himself to the witness. About two weeks after the camp, Jerry Sandusky invited this young boy to a family picnic along with other kids his age. It was almost immediately that the inappropriate touching began. In the car ride over there, Jerry Sandusky put his hand on the boys leg. “Like I was his girlfriend” is how the witness described it. The witness testified that when they were at the beach, Jerry was picking up the young boys and throwing them into the water at the beach. The witness testified that at the time, he didn’t think anything of it, but in retrospect, he realized that when the opportunity presented itself, Jerry Sandusky would brush against the boys genitals, or hold them in such a way as he was able to grasp their buttocks, pretending to be having difficulty getting his grip and having to readjust his hands over and over.
Shortly thereafter, Jerry Sandusky started calling on this boy, inviting him to work out at Penn State, play basketball and racquetball. The witness said it always happened the same way. They would go into the coaches locker room to change into their shorts – go play basketball or racquetball, then go back to the coaches locker room to shower. The first few times, nothing happened. But soon, Jerry started engaging in “horseplay” with the boy, initiating contact by “boxing” with open hands, sort of slapping each other. Jerry would take soap from the dispensers hanging in between the showers and throw it at the boy, making it into a game of soap wars. This eventually led to Jerry soaping up the young boy’s body and placing the young boy’s hands on him. At one point, the witness said Jerry wasn’t really into touching him, but rather preferred when the young boy touched him.
The witness testified that the coaches locker room had a key-code lock on it and that you could hear when someone was entering. The witness said on a few occasions, other coaches were in the locker room. Two interesting incidents were described -
1) Jerry Sandusky, the witness and Jerry’s son, Matt Sandusky had gone to work out/play racquetball or basketball together. When they went to the coaches locker room to shower, Matt went straight into the showers. Jerry and the witness came in a bit later. The witness said shortly thereafter, Jerry started the soap game, pumping some into his hand and throwing it at the witness. He said Matt looked nervous, turned off the shower and left them alone.
2) On another occasion, Tom Bradley entered the shower while Jerry and this young boy were in there. The witness said he couldn’t know what was in Tom’s mind, but that he thought maybe Tom was suspicious something may have been happening, because he stayed in the shower until they left.
When asked more specifically about the escalating behaviors of Jerry Sandusky, the witness said that the soap wars soon became wrestling matches, wherein Jerry Sandusky would get him down on the floor. Often times, he would position the witness so that his face was in between Jerry’s legs, with his penis near or touching his cheeks. Jerry would put his face in the boys crotch kissing his inner thighs, “like you would a girl,” the victim testified. On two occasions, Jerry Sandusky tried to insert his finger into the victim’s anus. And on one occasion, he wrestled the victim down to the ground in the shower onto his stomach, got on top of him, and tried to insert his penis into the victim’s anus. The victim testified that he wiggled his way out from underneath Jerry and walked out of the shower.
The “Love” Letters
“I know that I have made my share of mistakes. However, I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart.My wish is that you care and that you have love in your heart. Love never ends. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I believe that it can overcome all things.
The witness referred to these letters as “creepy.”
In addition to several letters with similar messages, the prosecution presented a contract signed by the witness and Mr. Sandusky. In this “Program,” Jerry Sandusky promised the victim payment for goals achieved. From ABC News:
The witness said the offer in 1999 was called the “Program” and was ostensibly made to ensure that the boy would continue with his studies and athletics. It promised $1,000 for every year of education the boy pursued after high school, plus additional money for seeing Sandusky, going to hockey practice, and working out 3 times a week, he testified.But Victim 4 said the proposed deal came as he tired of years of sexual abuse, as often as three times a week for three years. When asked by Sandusky’s lawyer Joseph Amendola whether the offer was made in good faith, the witness rejected that suggestion.
“No, no. You’re not understanding. This is when I’m trying to get away from him. I signed it to shut him up. And that’s not the only thing it’s offering me money for… It’s not that simple, not in my mind, sorry,” he said.
My opinion of the cross-examination was that it was weak at best. Amendola appeared to be grasping at straws, often asking questions that the witness emphatically said “No” to – for example, in trying to tie this witness to another witness he asked about them living in the same apartment complex and wanted to know from the witness when he became aware of this other accuser. The witness stated that he wasn’t a really nice guy growing up, and while he did, in fact, know the other witness, he said that he bullied him as the other witness was a few years younger than he was. In fact, Victim 4 said, if you asked the other witness, he would probably say he despised him because of the bullying.
Witness 1 Defense 0
He laid Sandusky out, often staring right into the defendant’s face, calling him by name and controlling Amendola on cross examination like it was actually he that was the experienced defense attorney.He expressed repeated regret at not running from Sandusky, but noted it was because of fear, confusion and an acute understanding that he’d be mocked at school.
“It’s not that simple, you just [can't] say, ‘OK, I’m done.’” There was also the odd mix of being so excited about getting to be part of the Penn State program (“I was like the mascot”) that he could block out the shower sessions.
“I thought, I didn’t want to lose this,” the witness said. “This is something good happening to me. I didn’t have a dad.”
As always, I’m constantly watching what happens in the “down times.” When recess would end, the witness would be the first one back, taking his place in the witness chair. Sandusky would enter from a back room, walking right in front of the witness. I watched the young man closely as Sandusky passed within 2 feet of him, rounding the corner and proceeding to his seat at the defense table. I saw the witness tense up, his jaw tightened, and his look was that of disdain. His eyes never left Jerry Sandusky as he walked by, following him all the way across the room to his seat. He then exhaled, heavily, a deep sigh.
The witness did an excellent job, was very composed and answered everything forthright. It was his truth and he was telling it. I do not doubt one thing this young man said. He was a bit nervous, often wiping his hands on his pants, pushing down towards his knees, drying his palms. It appeared at times he was holding his breath, as he would exhale forcefully, sometimes into the mic, a deep, heavy, laden filled sigh. I sensed that while he didn’t WANT to be there, he knew he NEEDED to be there.