Bearing Witness: The Trial of Jerry Sandusky (Day 2)
I will begin with a caveat-I am not an impartial observer. If you are looking for a dry rundown of yesterdays events, you won’t find it here. I am attending this trial as a survivor of sexual abuse, and I stand with the victims-I won’t be using terms like “alleged” and “accuser”. I believe these young men and make no apologies for that. It was also a very emotional day, I’m working off of very little sleep, and I’m still having a hard time processing everything. So I apologize if this is a bit hard to follow.
Before I begin, here is a rundown of who testified today:
•Victim #1 (Name withheld)-Abused between ages 11 and 13, a child who was involved in “The Second Mile”. 18 years old, and Sandusky’s last known victim. His coming forward was the catalyst for the whole investigation. Made headlines after being bullied out of school.•Grandfather of Victim #1
•2 Employees of a hotel where Jerry Sandusky took Victim #1
•Case Worker at Children & Youth Services who took the initial report from Victim #1
•Mike McQueary-Former Penn State assistant coach, walked in on Sandusky raping a young boy in a Penn State locker room in 2001.
•Joe Miller- Wrestling coach who walked in on Sandusky and Victim #1 in the weight room in the high school weight room.
I don’t know what I was expecting when he came into the courtroom. But I was immediately struck by how young he looked-younger than his 18 years, and skinny as a bean pole. As the door opened and he walked up to the witness stand, he paused for a brief moment and looked wide eyed at the packed gallery. He was shivering, and he took a deep breath as he lowered himself into his seat.
My god, I thought, he’s terrified.And who could blame him? 18 years old, and the star witness in one of the most high profile criminal trials in recent history.
But nothing could have prepared me for what would happen next.
His testimony started with the direct examination from the prosecutor, with simple questions about his background. Victim #1 never knew his father and lived with his single mother and two younger siblings in public housing in a small town outside of State College. As a result of his circumstances, his school referred him to “The Second Mile” program, which served at-risk youth. It was here that he first came into contact with Jerry Sandusky.The Second Mile ran a 6 day sleepover camp in the summer, which Victim #1 attended for 3 years. (Note-I wrote a diaryabout these camps a couple months ago) His first year was uneventful, and he does not recall meeting Sandusky. In the second year, when he was around 11, Sandusky pulled him aside and asked him if he was enjoying the camp, and asked if he had any suggestions for how to make it more fun.
In the 3rd year, when he was 12, Sandusky started to single him out for special attention. At first it started with daytime excursions, where he went off with Sandusky and a small group of other boys around his age. Sandusky took them to a playground, and to a dam where, as he did with Victim #4, Sandusky engaged in horseplay-often picking him up and throwing him into the water. Victim #1 said he never felt uncomfortable with this, and had a good time on these outings.
After the summer camp ended, Jerry Sandusky only intensified his contact with Victim #1-taking him to football games and other outings. Increasingly, he was spending time with him alone. Around this time, Sandusky began to show up at his sporting events-wrestling matches, track meets, and football games-and would often take pictures of him taking part in these activities.
In the summer of 2007, Sandusky asked him if he wanted to spend the night at his house. With his mothers blessing, he spent the night hanging out with Sandusky and a small group of other boys around his age. He testified that the group spent most of the night playing in his finished basement which was stocked with a pool table, a dart board, a foozball table, and other games. That first night, he slept over in the guestroom upstairs. He wasn’t sure if the other boys also spent the night there.
During that summer, Victim #1 began spending more and more of his time with Sandusky, often staying at his house for days at a time. Instead of the upstairs guest room, he started staying in a room in the basement- a room with a water bed and a big screen TV where Sandusky’s adult children would stay during visits. This is where the bizarre night time rituals began.
Around the time Victim #1 began sleeping in the basement bedroom, Sandusky became increasingly affectionate with him, under the guise of “saying goodnight”. It began as hugs, and occasionally he would kiss the boy on the cheek or forehead. Eventually, he began to kiss him on the lips as well. When asked if he found this unusual, Victim #1 testified that he didn’t think anything of it.
Sandusky also began doing something that Victim #1 called “cracking my back”. Sandusky would place the boy on top of him, both horizontal and vertical to his body. He would hold his body close to him, pressing firmly against his upper and lower vertebrae. Then, he would roll over so that the boy-who was small for his age and weighed well under 100 pounds at the time-was underneath him. He would stay like this for a while, often kissing him on the cheek, forehead, and lips as he did this. He would also blow rasberries on his stomach “like you would do to a little baby to make him laugh”, he said.
Eventually this “back cracking” ritual began to involve Jerry Sandusky running his hands down the boys back, and under his shorts, caressing his buttocks. As he said this, his voice broke and it was clear that he was fighting back tears.
When asked if he thought this was unusual, Victim #1 testified that he found it a little odd, but then he just assumed this was something Jerry did with his family-and by this point, Sandusky was treating him like a surrogate son.
DA then asked if, at any point, Jerry Sandusky had sexual contact with him.
Victim #1 had a noticeable physical reaction to the question. He flinched, grimaced and shook his head like a dog trying to rid water from its ears. He sighed heavily several times, and then he began.
In the summer of 2007, he testified, he spent the day with Sandusky and his family. After a day of fun activities, they retired to the basement and eventually ended up on the water bed again.
“After rubbing and cracking my back and rubbing his hands down the back of my shorts and then blowing on the stomach,” he began, and then stopped suddenly. He breathed heavily. Choked back a sob. Then he hung his head, and began to cry.
“He put … ”
“He put his mouth on my privates” he finally blurted out, and then buried his face in his hands and shook with sobs. I heard him say, in a voice so soft it was barely audible, “Oh, god”.
The acts of oral sex continued for months, he testified. When asked if he ever said anything, or asked Sandusky to stop, he said he hadn’t, and explained why.
“I spaced” he said. “I didn’t know what to do with all the thoughts running through my head. I just blacked out. I didn’t want it to happen. I froze.”
He said he was too scared and embarrassed to tell anyone. He was also fearful no one would believe him. Time after time he found himself back in Sandusky’s basement. He later guessed that he spent the night there at least 100 times-and that 80-90% of the time, he would end up having oral sex with Jerry Sandusky.
“It was always the same routine,” he said. “Cracking my back, rubbing my back, putting his hands down back of my shorts, after that, it was always after he blew on my stomach that it happened.”
“He would always blow on my stomach; as soon as he blew on my stomach that’s when it would happen”, he reiterated, and shuddered.
It was always Sandusky performing the act until one night. The DA gently asked him what happened on the night in question.
“It was pretty much like any normal time with Jerry,” he began, before breaking down and crying harder and harder.
“This time he sat there,” he said, his voice breaking. “He looked at me and said something along the lines … ” He sighed, heavily.
“… ‘It’s your turn.’ He made me … ”
He stopped again, crying intensely, burying his face into his hands.
“… He made me put my mouth on his privates.” he said, and then under his breath, again, he said “Oh, God”
This is where it becomes impossible to remain an impartial observer. By this point, I really started to lose it. I was choking back sobs, as was Roxine, and the woman sitting next to me was also crying. Words cannot even describe the pain I saw on that boys face, and the pain it caused in me because I know, all too well, what it is like. But then again-I don’t. Because I never had to sit in front of a packed courtroom and face my abuser, and say “this is what he did to me, and this is what he made me do”. Not now, and certainly not at 18 years old. I wanted to run up to him and wrap him in my arms and tell him how sorry I was. I wanted to take every ounce of that pain he was feeling and take it in myself. But all I could do was sit there, and look at him-I nodded my head, I kept saying under my breath “stay strong, I believe you”
Victim #1 testified that even though he continued to go to his house, he tried to avoid Jerry Sandusky-hiding from him underneath the pool table, or in a closet when he was in his home. But, he said, that didn’t last long. “There was just nowhere to hide” he demurred.
And as he soon found out, even outside of Jerry’s home there was no place he could ever be safe.
When Victim #1 entered high school, he started to pull away from Sandusky-something that seems to have triggered increasingly irrational behavior on Sandusky’s part. He began calling his home relentlessly, and showing up at his house unnanounced to badger him about not making time for him in his schedule, and not living up to various commitments he made with “The Second Mile”. Sandusky-who was a volunteer at the high school-began having victim #1 pulled out of class and sent down to the office for meetings with him. According to his testimony, nothing of a sexual nature occured in these meetings. He did, however, use the time and space alloted (the principal of the school allowed him to use a private conference room) to badger the young teenager and emand to know why he was pulling away from him.
Victim #1 testified that being sent to the office so often got him labled as a “trouble maker”. He was embarrassed by constantly being pulled from class, increasingly terrified by Sandusky’s constant presence, and eventually he began skipping school altogether. He went from making A’s and B’s to getting C’s, D’s, and F’s. He also quit the football team, even though he loved the sport, because of Sandusky’s constant presence at his games and practices.
In what was, in my view, the most chilling testimony of the day, Victim #1 spoke of a time when he took the bus, and saw what appeared to be Sandusky’s car following him. He got off at a friends stop, but found that no one was home. Sandusky pulled up next to him and confronted him, demanding that he get into the car. Victim #1 refused. Sandusky continued to hassle him, and demanded that he get in the car. Victim #1 turned around and started to walk away, and Sandusky revved his engine and pulled the car up directly in front of him, blocking his path. So Victim #1 took off running in the opposite direction. Sandusky followed him-until he turned and ran into an alley and ducked down to hide. He says he was afraid for his life.
When he finally got home, Sandusky was already there-standing out in the front yard and arguing with Victim #1′s mother. Victim #1 hid behind a bush, eventually sneaking into his house through the back door. Sandusky escalated the argument outside, repeatedly demanding that Victim #1 give him a schedule of when he was available, and eventually Victim #1′s grandfather was called and had to come over to diffuse the situation.
It all finally came to an end when he asked his mother if she knew about the website “that has people on there who do things to kids”. When his mother asked him why, he told her “I want to see if Jerry is on there”
The mother, alarmed, set up a session with a school guidance counselor where he eventually ended up revealing some parts of the sexual assault.
Sadly, the school remained unconvinced.
“They, they, they said we needed to think about it.” he said, his voice wavering. [Sandusky] has a heart of gold. He wouldn’t do something like that. So they didn’t believe me”. At this point, he dropped his head down and began to sob.
His mother refused to “think about it”, and eventually a report was made to Children & Youth Services. In the presence of a female social worker, he gave more details about what happened-stopping short of telling the whole story, because he said he still felt too embarrassed. His intent, he said, was simply to get Jerry Sandusky away from him. Instead, an investigation was launched, eventually leading to the discovery of other victims who had been hiding in plain sight for over a decade.
In the midst of Attorney Amendola’s cross examination of victim #1, I wrote a single word down in my notebook and showed it to Roxine.Gaslighting. Gaslighting is the practice of systematically convincing an individual that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. Gaslighting is always done to provoke a reaction—whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness—in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal. They become more hesitant to speak out-afraid that their resposes will be used as further ammunition against them.
Amendola started off, as did prosecutor McGettigan, by asking Victim #1 about his background. However, he asked a very interesting question-whether his siblings had any “disabilities”. Victim #1 stated that his younger sister was seriously abused by her biological father, and as a result “developed bipolar disorder”. Amendola inquired further, and he stated that the police had been called to his home on a number of occasions because of his younger siblings out of control behavior. I waited for them to follow up on this-to see where they were going with this bit of information-but they changed the subject. The objective, it seems, was simply to portray Victim #1′s family in a negative light, and perhaps raise the possibility that he was also mentally ill. I cannot think of any other reason why this would have been brought up.
Amendola raised the issue of Victim #1′s family hiring an attorney, suggesting that he had plans for a civil lawsuit with a big payday. Victim #1 said the attorney was hired to handle the media onslaught and help him through the legal process. Amendola repeatedly asked the witness if he verbalized to someone his expectation that he would one day reap a windfall and “live in a big house and drive a nice car.”
Victim #1 insisted that he didn’t say that-although he conceded that he probably talked about wanting a nice house and a nice car. In a rare moment of levity, he quipped “come on, what teenage boy doesn’t want a nice car?”
Amendola inferred that he would be introducing a witness to counter this testimony.
Sandusky also provided gifts, such as golf clubs and dress clothes, which Amendola tried to paint as an act of goodwill. Amendola said the clubs were donated through Second Mile and that he gave them to victim #1 because he said he was interested in golf. Amendola also said Sandusky bought the witness clothes so he could take him to church, which the boy had never attended with his own family.
Amendola spent most of his time, however, badgering Victim #1 about inconsistancies in his story-which evolved from initially stating that Sandusky had only “wrestled” with him and made him feel uncomfortable to the eventual disclosures about forced oral copulation. He started off with interrogating him about his statements that Sandusky had taken him to a hotel, but that Sandusky had not engaged in oral copulation with the victim during these trips, while he had in his home while his wife was present. He also brought up a discrepency between the number of times Victim #1 had stayed in a hotel with Sandusky. At this point, you need to bear in mind that Victim #1 had just finished testifying about the horrific abuse he had endured, in front of a packed courtroom, with Sandusky mere feet away from him.
Victim #1 dropped his head, sighed deeply, and then said-in a voice that was calm but firm-”Look, I was a little kid…” and started to cry again. At this point, I have to be honest that I am not entirely clear on the sequence of events, because I started crying again myself. But I believe this was the point where the defense asked to approach in sidebar, and the judge, mercifully, called for a recess.
I went outside and could not even light my cigarette because my hands were shaking so hard. And yet I looked around and everyone seemed to be smiling and happy. It felt like the twilight zone. Then, I ran into another survivor and advocate. “How did you do?” he asked. I shook my head, tearing up. I saw that his eyes were red too.
When I got back inside, he was still sitting on the stand, looking as alone as I have ever seen a person. That tremor was still there. He looked up and our eyes met, briefly. I smiled and, not knowing what else to do, I gave him a thumbs up sign. Jerry Sandusky walked back in, and he looked at him with the most heartbreaking expression. While Victim #4 who testified yesterday looked at him with utter contempt and disgust, the look on Victim #1′s eyes was different. It was one of sadness and longing-for what? I would guess for Jerry to stand up and tell the truth. I was reminded about how he had said that he thought of Jerry like a father-a child who never knew his own. The emotional betrayal is something that the media doesn’t seem keen on talking about-focusing instead on the sensationalist details of this case. But in many ways, I believe this was the worst crime committed against him.
When we readjourned, Amodela continued his lne of questioning in an increasingly confrontational matter, repeatedly confronting him with inconsistancies between his various statements. This went on for what felt like hours, and the questions were repetitive and seemed to be designed to wear him down (the prosecution objected on grounds of “asked and answered” but were overruled)
To explain his changing story, Victim #1 said that as he came to grips with what happened he had trouble admitting it out loud. It was particularly difficult to tell the entire story, especially in front of different groups of people. He said that each time he was forced to tell his story to a new group of people- from social workers to state troopers to the multiple grand juries, he would find it difficult to open up again.
“Whatever came first, I told the least amount to make it as easy on myself … I don’t remember what I testified,” he explained. “All I know is it happened … I may have white lied to cover embarrassment when I told these people. But I am here now telling the full truth to the fullest.”
“It’s a hard thing to talk about” he said. “You don’t understand”
He became increasingly angry and shaken as the questioning wore on into the afternoon. Finally, after another barrage of questions, he lost his cool.
He laughed, and shook his head. For a moment, he was silent.
“You know…” he said finally, his voice rising in anger with each word.
“It’s hard enough to tell the people in the jury what happened let alone the size of the people in this room,”.
Amondela pressed on anyways.
“I’m sorry” he snapped. “You are asking the same question over and over and I am going to give you the same answer over and over.” His face was growing red at this point-red with anger, choking back tears.
“Would you like to take a break?” Amendola asked.
“I’d like you to stop asking me the same question,” he snapped.
“I’m actually asking a different one,” Amendola said.
“You’re rewording them.”
Judge Cleland interjected then, telling Victim #1 not to argue with Amendola. A few minutes later, cross examination ended.
On redirect, asked him a question about church. Amendola had implied that Sandusky had bought clothes for victim #1 so that he could go to church with him and his family-implying that Sandusky had altruistic motives.McGettigan asked him if, on the Saturday nights before he went to church with the Sandusky’s, Jerry had ever forced him to engage in oral copulation.
Yes, he said. Yes, he did.
He asked if he had been asked to tell the same story he had told in previous statements, or if he was asked to tell the truth. “I was asked to tell the truth” he said, and looked directly at the jury “And I did. That’s the only reason I am here today, to tell the truth”
The other witnesses were not quite as pivotal and I still need to get to McQueary. So I will just give a brief rundown of their testimony.Victim #1′s grandfather took the stand next, and testified about the argument between Sandusky and his grandson where he was called in to intervene-told Sandusky “look, if he doesn’t want to do this, just find some other kid to do it”
2 women who worked at the hotel testified that they saw him there with Victim #1. They denied seeing any inappropriate contact between them.
The social worker who first took the report from victim #1, backed up victim #1 story. Her testimony was most interesting because it included a statement from Sandusky in which he admitted to the following:
•He felt “used” by victim #1 (a grown man, feeling “used” by a 12 year old boy) •He was “wrapped up” in Victim #1 (a grown man, “wrapped up” in a 12 year old boy) •He “cracked” victim #1′s back on at least 7 occasions, wherein he would lie on top of the victim, and lay the victim on top of him, both horizontal and verticle to his body for 5-20 minutes •He could not say “for certain” that when he gave victim #1 back rubs that his hands never went below his waist or under his shorts. •He made victim #1 a handmade birthday card, complete with a picture of him on the front that he clipped out of a newspaper. •While he denied following victim #1′s bus home-he stated that he did “drive in the general direction I thought the bus was going”-a statement so ridiculous that many in the courtroom burst out laughing.
All of these, the social worker said, were very suspicious and inappropriate behaviors between an adult and a child. She believed that Child Sexual Abuse had occured, and classified the report as such.
Another interesting part of testimony was the fact that they initially did NOT send Sandusky a notice of investigation, because they were concerned about retaliation.
Later on in the day, a wrestling coach from victim #1′s high school would testify that he walked in on Victim #1 and Jerry Sandusky lying on their sides, facing each other, in a weight room at the high school around 8 o clock at night. He testified that he felt uneasy with what he saw, and found it a bit suspicious, but quickly dismissed his suspicions because-in his words-”Jerry was a saint. He would never do anything like that to a kid”.
When the state called Mike McQueary to the stand, there was an audible gasp in the courtroom. None of us expected him to testify today.Mike McQueary makes quite an entrance. He has a shock of red hair, and he’s very tall and well built. He speaks in a booming voice that fills up the room, and has an intensity about him. His testimony was eye opening.
I won’t bore you with the details of his direct examination, since it was essentially the same story he gave in the grand jury report-with one important twist. Whereas in the grand jury report, he states that he walked into the locker room, saw Sandusky raping a child, and immediately walked away-now he says that he slammed his locker door shut, loudly, hoping they would hear it and “break it up”. He also says that before he left, he saw Sandusky and the boy standing apart from each other and facing him-so, in his opinion, he put a stop to it before he left. Photographs were displayed of the locker room where the rape occured, taken from his vantage point as well as that of Sandusky and his victim.
Amendola brought up the fact that McQueary has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Penn State, and therefore he has a vested interest in the outcome of this trial. He pointed out the inconsistancies between McQueary’s first statements, and his current testimony-in particular, the fact that in his first statements he stated that he left without doing anything to stop what was happening. He only recently started saying that he slammed the locker. He also stated that when he left, the boy was “still in that position” (Triggering again-but “that position” would be bent over with his hands splayed up against the wall, with Sandusky behind him, hands around his waist. THAT position.) Now he is claiming that when he left, Sandusky and the boy were standing a few feet away from each other, both of them facing him directly and making eye contact.
Overall, McQueary came across as cocky and arrogant. Completely truthful about what he saw in the shower that night, but likely not what he did afterwards.
He did not show one moment of regret or remorse for the fact that he didn’t intervene when he saw a young child being visciously abused. He seemed surprisingly unaffected by the whole thing. In fact, the only time I saw him get emotional was when he talked about losing his coaching position.
“Look” he said, his voice wavering a bit. “I want to be the coach of Penn State football. And I’m not able to do that right now.”
“And for the record”, he added, “I don’t believe I did anything wrong here.”
Victim #1 gave compelling testimony, but the cross examination rattled him. I hope that the jurors can understand why a victim of this kind of abuse would have inconsistant statements. Unfortunately, the laws of the commonwealth prohibit any expert testimony in this area (i.e. from a trauma psychologist who could testify that this is a very normal response) so it is really dependant on the jurors being able to infer this for themselves-and with so much of the public unaware of the psychological effects of sexual abuse, the effects of dissociation on memory recall, I am worried that they will deem him uncredible because his statements were so different.
The case workers testimony helped by backing up Victim #1′s story, and demonstrating the innapropriate behavior that Sandusky himself admitted to.
Hero worship an an absolute unquestioned deference to authority are pervasive throughout this case. Jerry Sandusky operated completely outside of the law for years-all but flaunting his abuse, and still able to maintain his position in the community, and still allowed seemingly unlimited access to children. At one point, when the wrestling coach was asked why he dismissed the incident with Sandusky and Victim #1 in the weight room-his words were “Jerry Sandusky is a saint, he would never do something like that. He’s a hero for what he does with those kids”. If the community is asking itself how this could have happened, I would suggest starting there with their blind hagiography of very flawed men.
I believe that Mike McQueary lied on the stand today-to save face, and because of his impending civil suit. I believe that he is so concerned about his own reputation that he would be willing to perjure his testimony (and risk getting Sandusky off in the process) in order to preserve it. It’s a narrative that, sadly, the media seems to be falling for hook line and sinker.
Why do I think he’s lying? For starters, his body language. When he testified to what he observed in that locker room, he was very strong and forceful in his delivery. He was direct, and did not appear evasive in any way. When Amendola confronted him about his inconsistant statements, however, he became angry and combative, and came across as extremely defensive. His explainations for why his story changed also made no sense. They were, to me, as laughable as Sandusky’s “I wasn’t following the bus, I was just went in the direction that the bus went” explaination. It just didn’t pass the smell test.
But what struck me more than anything was his nonchalant attitude. He was smiling, laughing, and cracking jokes throughout his testimony. A perfect example of how seriously he took this? When investigators came to his house in 2010 to ask him about the incident, he agreed to talk to them but said that it would have to wait. The Ohio State game was on.
He made an interesting non-sequitor as he got up to leave the stand. Having difficulty manuevering his large frame in the relatively small witness box, he cracked “I’m too big for this”
It was a reference to his physical stature, but I think it really sums up his attitude in general-and the attitudes of so many involved in this case who failed to act. They were all “too big” for this kind of thing. Penn State was too big, Jerry Sandusky was too big, their reputation was too big for any of this.
But there was a very interesting dichotomy here, between Victim #1 and Mike McQueary. I have never before witnessed an act of courage like what I saw today when Victim #1 testified. Bear in mind, he did not need to testify in the first place-indeed, as he admitted he did not WANT to. But he did, he said, because he needed to tell the truth about what happened. There is a saying that goes “when a brave child speaks, the spines of others are often stiffened”. That’s how it felt to bear witness to his testimony today. He may have been small in stature, and was diminutive, and soft spoken at first, by the end of his testimony his presence filled the room.
The large and boisterous Mike McQueary, by contrast, ended up looking very, very small indeed.