Juror Says Panel Had Little Doubt on Sandusky’s Guilt
By JOE DRAPE and NATE TAYLOR
Published: June 23, 2012
BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Joshua Harper watched Jerry Sandusky listen to one guilty verdict after another — 45 in all — and was more certain than ever that Sandusky, the former Penn State football assistant, had sexually abused those young boys. Sandusky never flinched. No sign of regret creased his face.
“He knew it was true,” Harper, a high school chemistry teacher here, said as his 2-year-old son and his 4- and 5-year-old daughters played on the floor of their home Saturday morning. “It made me feel confident that we made the right decision.”
For two weeks, Harper, a graduate of Penn State and a juror in Sandusky’s trial, heard in disturbing detail how one of his alma mater’s most famous graduates had preyed on and molested 10 boys as he was simultaneously building a charity and a reputation as a pillar of a tight-knit community where football and family were highly valued.
On Friday, Sandusky, 68, spent the first night of what is expected to be the rest of his life behind bars. He will be sentenced within 90 days, his fate rigidly mapped out and only at the mercy of the state’s justice system.
In the meantime, Sandusky will be examined by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which will determine whether he is a violent sexual predator. He will very likely be isolated from other prisoners for his protection until Judge John Cleland reviews the reports and settles on a sentence.
Then Sandusky will be transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, in south-central Pennsylvania, which holds up to 4,000 inmates, a quarter of them classified as temporary.
Harper said there was little debate and even less doubt in the jury room about Sandusky’s guilt. As emotional and wrenching as the accounts were from the eight victims who testified, Harper said the grimmest and most significant testimony came from Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, who said he interrupted a sexual assault by his former coach against a young boy in the showers at the university’s football center.
“It was just eye-opening on all the things that happened because we got a whole lot of detail on what Sandusky was doing,” Harper said.
While Sandusky’s future appears predestined, the fates of Penn State, its vaunted football program and some of its current and past officials will be determined after a number of investigations.
There are federal investigations into a possible cover-up by Penn State and the charity Sandusky founded, the Second Mile. The university’s board of trustees has hired the former F.B.I. director Louis J. Freeh to look into the mistakes made in the wake of Sandusky’s crimes and to propose remedies.
The N.C.A.A. and the Big Ten Conference are investigating whether the athletic department had lost institutional control and whether there were more violations of ethical conduct and compliance. Two fired administrators — Tim Curley and Gary Schultz — have been accused of lying to a grand jury about the sexual assault witnessed by McQueary.
Then there are the numerous civil suits from Sandusky’s victims that Penn State has acknowledged are coming.
“The university plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse to participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr. Sandusky’s conduct,” Penn State said in a statement late Friday. “The purpose of the program is simple — the university wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims’ concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the university.”
One of the plaintiffs could be Matt Sandusky, an adopted son of the coach, who came forward in the final days of the trial and offered to testify that Jerry Sandusky had abused him. Matt Sandusky was never called to testify, but Jerry Sandusky’s lead lawyer, Joseph Amendola, conceded that the disclosure had kept his client off the witness stand.
Although the jury did not hear that Matt Sandusky had joined the list of accusers until after the verdict, Harper said it was a unifying moment for the jury’s seven women and five men, who had decided early not to exchange last names or contact information.
“That was total confirmation that we made the right decision,” Harper said. “That was very important for me because I don’t have to question my decision.”
On the day after a conviction was announced against one of the most high-profile pedophiles in recent times, there seemed to be little doubt in this corner of the world known as Happy Valley that the right verdict had been rendered.
Still, it did not mean anyone was happy about it.
It was a somber afternoon on campus, especially at Paterno Library, named for Penn State’s iconic coach, Joe Paterno. He had known of at least one of the instances of abuse and was found to have failed to act properly and was fired. Two months later, he died from lung cancer.
Six people politely declined to talk about the months since scandal gripped their community.
“There’s been too much sadness,” said a female graduate student who did not want to give her name.
Fifty yards from the Centre County Courthouse a life-size cutout of Paterno filled a storefront. Across the street from where Harper and his fellow jurors found Sandusky guilty, a banner advertised memorabilia signed by Paterno.
Shana Stamm, a 27-year-old home care aide, remembered how classes at her elementary school were once suspended for an afternoon so Sandusky could give a motivational speech. She remembered how many of her classmates raised money for the Second Mile.
“It’s devastating for this whole community,” she said. “He turned out to be such an evil man.”