On day one of the Jerry Sandusky trial, outside the courthouse, reports surfaced that Sandusky has histrionic personality disorder, in an apparent effort to portray him as flawed emotionally, not sexually. Another report indicated that ousted Penn State president Graham Spanier called not alerting authorities of an alleged incident in a locker room shower “humane.” At a university where administrators have spent years involved in an apparent cover-up, for Penn State yesterday, pieces unraveled.
Inside the Centre County courthouse, Sandusky scribbled notes to his attorney, Joe Amendola, when prosecutors showed photos of the eight boys he’s accused of repeatedly molesting. Two remain unknown. Yesterday, one told his story:
He was in middle school, troubled. His father wasn’t around. He didn’t get along with his stepdad. And in 1997, his guidance counselor recommended he attend a summer camp with one of his buddies, a camp for kids like them. That’s where he first met Sandusky, in a dorm room at overnight camp. Sandusky knew the boy’s roommate. He watched the kids do magic tricks in their dorm room. About two weeks later, he invited the boy to a family picnic at a park with a lake.
In the water, Sandusky tossed the kids in the air. His hands lingered, brushed against the boy’s groin before he’d splash underwater. “I didn’t think much of it,” he testified.
A few weeks later, Sandusky invited him to work out. They played racquetball, basketball and other sports. Afterward, they’d shower together naked. Sandusky pressed his hand against the soap dispenser and playfully threw the white foam at the 90-pound boy. Confused, he didn’t know what to make of it. He’d never showered with someone else before.
The soap games, over the next few weeks, continued and eventually escalated into molestation. Sandusky began buying the boy gifts: a drum set, snowboard, Penn State football tickets—all the important stuff to a boy on the brink of adolescence.
His friend’s took notice. Jealous, in high school, they teased him. “You’re Jerry Sandusky’s butt boy,” he testified they teased him. “He would put his hand on my leg like I was his girlfriend,” he testified. “It freaked me out extremely bad.” During one such episode, he struck Sandusky with a bottle in an effort to make him stop.
Why didn’t he leave? “I didn’t want to lose [what he had given me.] I didn’t have a dad around. I didn’t have a father figure. You’ve got to realize, I’m in high school at this point. People are jealous. Other kids are jealous. They want to tease you. They’re making up things like, ‘You’re being molested by Jerry. You’re his butt buddy.’ … [And] it’s really happening. But I have to pretend that it’s not happening. If I ever said anything, that would’ve been so much worse. I denied it forever.”
When he tried to distance himself, Sandusky created a contract-like form that required him to maintain good grades, practice sports and spend time with him. In exchange, he’d receive money. The form appeared to be from the Second Mile, but an administrator for the Sandusky charity testified yesterday that such a program was never approved.
Then there were the letters, which the alleged victim described as “creepy,” handwritten, some as long as three pages and penned on Penn State letterhead. During Amendola’s cross-examination, Amendola framed the letters as something a mentor might write to a troubled teen.
“Did Jerry help promote your well-being?” Amendola, seated for the entire testimony, asked.
“I guess,” he answered.
When he was 19, his father resurfaced. The father wanted Penn State football tickets. “I came up with every excuse in the world to my dad for why I couldn’t reach out to Jerry Sandusky,” he testified. His dad told him about some rumors that Sandusky was being investigated.
“Maybe you should get a lawyer,” he testified his father told him. Police showed up at his door a few years ago. They said they wanted to talk with him about Sandusky’s autobiography Touched. Nervous, anxious, ashamed, the then twentysomething told the police to go away.
Amendola questioned if he’d ever paid a lawyer. He testified he hasn’t. Amendola questioned if he’d ever known any of the alleged victims. He testified that at one point he was living in the same apartment complex as another one of them, but that they did not communicate.
So why did he wait so long to come forward?
“I didn’t want to admit what was happening. I spent so many years burying this in the back of my head. I thought I was a normal person, and I came to terms with it and wanted it to go away,” he testified. “If I just would’ve said something back then, this wouldn’t have happened. I feel responsible for what happened to other victims.”