The Night Jerry Sandusky Was Found Guilty, 45 Times
Shortly after 9 p.m., she sits, without expression, in the courtroom. This is, after all, the woman who witnessed nearly the entire investigation of Jerry Sandusky. For Pennsylvania’s state attorney general, Linda Kelly, credibility is on the line.
“We have to continue to shine a bright light in those dark, dark places where the Jerry Sanduskys of the world live,” she’d later tell reporters on the courthouse steps. But first, she waited, barely moving except to open a gum wrapper from her black leather handbag.
It’s 9:20 p.m., and Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim, 24, walks through the courtroom’s double doors, flanked by a CNN producer. The Pulitzer-winning journalist who broke the Sandusky story taps a colleague on the shoulders and nods. The previous night, she was first to report that Sandusky’s adopted son Matt now alleges he, too, was abused by Jerry Sandusky. “Joe McGettigan, the lead prosecutor, called him a serial predatory pedophile, and Jerry Sandusky smiled,” Ganim told CNN’s John King on-air the night before. But now, she takes her seat. A hush falls over the courtroom.
Reporters thumb through their smart phones. A photo posted on Twitter shows Sandusky leaving his State College home. It’s 9:30. Court officials email reporters: Court will convene in approximately 20 minutes to receive a verdict.
“This is real shit. It isn’t like a fucking football game,” one reporter whispers.
At 9:45 p.m., Dottie Sandusky arrives. She’s frozen while seated, no movement, except when she chews her gum. Her legs are crossed, and she’s wearing a silk green shirt. And she’s surrounded by her children—except Matt, who is not present. Her son alleges that her husband abused him. Would she now have to choose between them? “Dottie and her children were prepared to testify against Matt,” Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola would tell reporters later that evening. “Why did Matt come forward? You’d have to ask Matt … He sat with his family the first day of the trial. We have no idea what happened.”
The prosecution, led by Joe McGettigan, and the defense attorneys, take their seats.
And at 9:50 p.m., Jerry Sandusky enters the courtroom. He’s wearing a brown corduroy jacket. He sits in a wooden swivel chair, his back to his family. Amendola puts on his glasses, turns to face Dottie and politely waves with a sympathetic smile. Sandusky stares at the courtroom’s back door, waiting for the jury to arrive.
A 10-foot flagpole with an American flag stands to the right of the juror’s entrance. “All rise, court is now in session,” a police officer says. It’s 9:53 p.m.
Judge John Cleland holds court. “I am aware that there is a lot of commotion outside of the courthouse, but this room is the court of law and we will tolerate no disruption,” he says. A crowd of nearly 200 people packed the courthouse lawn. They, too, waited for a verdict. A heckler would later shout to ask why Gov. Tom Corbett waited to prosecute the case. “Get Spanier next,” shouted another, referring to Penn State’s ousted president.
At 9:55 p.m., the jury enters. Juror No. 4, a middle-aged State College engineer whose wife is a librarian, stands to read the verdict. He wears a blue dress shirt, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He stands. He hands the verdict slip to a policeman who hands it to the judge.
Forty-eight charges. The judge flips through the pages, his face without expression. He returns the verdict slip to the policeman, who hands it back to Juror No. 4. It’s 9:58 p.m. The attorneys and Sandusky stand to hear the verdict.
Guilty. Forty-five times, he says it. Outside, a church bell chimes almost in rhythm. It’s 10 p.m. Sandusky’s left hand, his freckled, wrinkled hand, is in his pocket, shielding his wedding ring. Guilty. Forty-five times, Juror No. 4 says it. The Penn State student juror stares at Sandusky. McGettigan licks his right index finger and flips through the court docket, following along. Guilty. Forty-five times, he says it.
Dottie half-smiles to her daughter. Her son sits directly behind her. He puts his right hand on her shoulder. She reaches back to touch it. He leans into his left hand to shield his face. He shakes his head. “No,” he mouths. “No.” Guilty. But Dottie and her children don’t cry. They’re frozen. Forty-five times, he says it.
The eyes of a twentysomething young man who Sandusky abused fill with tears. Overwhelmed, he’s sitting with family members; he places their arms around him. It’s 10:05 p.m. Each juror individually states that they heard and agree with the verdict. At 10:07, they leave.
“Mr. Sandusky, you have been found guilty on 45 counts,” the judge says. “You will receive a sexual offender assessment.” His bail is revoked. His sentencing is within 90 days. Sandusky nods to the sheriff and is escorted out of the courtroom. In back, he is handcuffed. At 10:09 p.m., court is adjourned.
“I love you,” the mother of one of the young men Sandusky abused mouths to her son. Amendola walks toward Dottie, who is sitting frozen. He squats on the floor, like a coach. He looks directly into her eyes and holds her hands. She stares at him without expression. Outside, the crowd learns the verdict and roars in approval.