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Sandusky gets at least 30 years

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 | 11:00 AM    

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BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (AP) — Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant American football coach, was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison — effectively a life sentence — in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno's downfall today.

A defiant Sandusky gave a long, rambling statement in which he denied the allegations and talked about his life in prison and the pain of being away from his family.

The 68-year-old former Penn State assistant coach was found guilty in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, convicted of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Witnesses said Sandusky used the charitable organisation he founded for troubled children as his personal hunting ground to find and groom boys to become his victims.

The case, which tarnished the reputation of one of the most storied college football programs in the U.S. and stunned a nation where college sports are revered, led to the firing of Paterno, the team's long-time head football coach, who died from lung cancer in January.

Sandusky's arrest 11 months ago, and the details that came out during his trial over the summer, transformed his public image from a college coach who had been widely admired for his work with The Second Mile charity into that of a reviled pervert who preyed on the very youngsters who sought his help.

Eight of the boys he was found guilty of molesting testified at his trial, describing a range of abuse that included fondling, oral sex and anal intercourse. One of the prosecution's star witnesses, former graduate assistant Mike McQueary, testified that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a locker room shower.

Among the three who spoke Tuesday, a young man who said he was 11 when Sandusky groped him in a shower in 1998 said Sandusky is in denial and should "stop coming up with excuses."

"I've been left with deep painful wounds that you caused and had been buried in the garden of my heart for many years," he said.

Another man said he was 13 when, in 2001, Sandusky lured him into a Penn State sauna and then a shower and then forced him to touch the ex-coach.

"I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory," he said. "Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them."

Sandusky has consistently maintained his innocence and plans to appeal. One element of the appeal is expected to be a claim that the defence did not have time to adequately prepare for trial. Sandusky was charged in November, following a lengthy investigation.

In a three-minute monologue aired Monday night by Penn State Com Radio that used some of the same language as his courtroom statement, Sandusky said he knows in his heart that he did not do what he called "these alleged disgusting acts" and described himself as the victim of Penn State, investigators, civil attorneys, the media and others.

His statement in court lasted 15 minutes and his voice cracked as he spoke of missing his loved ones.

Judge John Cleland sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in prison. Under Pennsylvania law, Sandusky cannot be released on parole before the minimum term is up.

"The tragedy of this crime is that it's a story of betrayal. The most obviously aspect is your betrayal of 10 children," Cleland said before the sentencing. "I'm not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law will permit that." Still, Cleland said, he expected Sandusky to die in prison.

Before sentencing, Cleland designated Sandusky as a sexually violent predator under the state's Megan's Law. The label essentially has no effect on Sandusky, since its requirement is lifetime registration after a convict is released from prison.

In sentencing the ex-coach, Cleland called Sandusky dangerous, saying, "You abused the trust of those who trusted you."

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