A U.S. jury has convicted former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, 68, of sexually abusing young boys. The once-revered coach could spend the rest of his life in prison for assaults spanning 15 years.
After seven days of testimony and two days of deliberation, the jury found Sandusky Guilty on 45 of 48 charges.
Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola told reporters the conviction was not a surprise.
“The Sandusky family is very disappointed obviously by the verdict of the jury, but we respect their verdict,” said Amendola.
Amendola says Sandusky has maintained his innocence, and the defense will now pursue an appeal.
On the prosecution side, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly thanked the eight victims who testified, saying they showed “great strength and courage.”
“This trial was not something that they [the victims] sought,” said Kelly. “But rather, something that forced them to face the demons of their past, and to reveal what happened to them and their childhood when they met Jerry Sandusky.”
In all, 10 young men were said to have been victims of Sandusky, with the abuse ranging from groping to rape. The charges rocked the Penn State community, prompting university trustees to fire the school’s president, as well as legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.
Sandusky’s popularity and charitable work explain why his case captured the nation’s attention, says Michele Booth Cole, executive director of Safe Shores – The D.C. Children’s Advocacy Center.
“We don’t want to envision that people we spend time with every day, that we work with, that we see opening programs to do things to help people, we don’t want to envision that those people are criminals,” said Cole.
Cole said cases like Sandusky’s are important to open up public conversation about sexual abuse.
“Child sexual abuse is a really complex crime, unlike many others, because if you think about it, the stigma attaches to the victim a lot of the time and not to the perpetrator,” added Cole. “It is a complex crime because the perpetrator often makes the victim feel that they are complicit in the crime, that it is their fault.”
In a statement, Penn State President Rodney Erickson said the university cannot change what happened, but does accept the responsibility to take action on child sexual abuse.
Sandusky is now in the county jail, with his sentencing expected in September.