Sandusky maneuver puts accusers through wringer
Jerry Sandusky first met the boy who would become known as “Victim 4” through the Second Mile program in the mid-1990s, when the kid was just 12 or 13.
Sandusky invited him to a family picnic, according to the grand jury presentment. While swimming together that day, Sandusky noted “how [Victim 4] would respond to even the smallest physical contact.”
Soon the boy was allegedly being sexually abused.
When not being plied with gifts and marijuana, when not being used as a prop for a magazine photo shoot to show how caring Jerry Sandusky supposedly was, the boy was allegedly serially molested. During forced wrestling matches and shared trips to the showers and sauna room of the Penn State athletic facilities. In hotel rooms the night before Penn State games home and away, including trips to the 1998 Outback and 1999 Alamo bowls.
It’s vile stuff, just some of the horrific accusations at the centerpiece of the Jerry Sandusky case that’s put on full display the controlling acts of the worst of the worst among us.
And there on Tuesday, just as Sandusky’s preliminary hearing was set to begin, with Victim 4 and nine others like him summoning the courage to confront the former Penn State defensive coordinator in open court, Jerry Sandusky took control one more awful time.
He waived, at the very last moment, his preliminary hearing and agreed to have the case sent to trial.
“I can’t believe they put us through this until the last second, only to waive the hearing,” Victim 4, now 27 years old, said in a statement released by his attorney.
Believe it. Once again, with no concern for anyone but himself, perhaps in a final impacting of the lives of a bunch of scared boys turned brave men, Jerry Sandusky let everyone go through this wringer of stress – and then called it all off.
“A coward,” said Ken Suggs, the attorney for Victim 6.
There were two common legal strategies for Sandusky here and he applied neither of them.
The first is to waive the preliminary hearing early, acknowledging that – considering the abundance of witnesses, the fact there was already a grand jury finding and the extreme publicity of the case – there was simply no way that he wasn’t being bound over for trial. To do so was to avoid the negative publicity that would come from the buildup and media reporting on the hearing, which could presumably impact a jury.
The other was to go ahead with the preliminary hearing and use it as a way to force the prosecution to lay its cards on the table and to hear the witnesses directly so that his defensive team could better prepare for the actual trial.
Instead, Sandusky allowed 200 reporters to descend on the Centre County Courthouse in little Bellefonte, Pa., and stir up all the one-sided accusations again, only to quit before he could gain a modicum of advantage.
Sandusky’s attorney said the decision was made late Monday night. The attorney for Victim 1 claimed the defense lawyer was “reaching into his bag of tricks.”
The greatest impact, once again, was on the accusers. For no reason at all, as it turned out, they had to summon the fortitude to face their alleged attacker. The decision to waive the hearing weeks ago could’ve saved untold pressure.
Preparing to discuss the worst and most difficult moments of your childhood, in open court, in front of a throng of national media and – perhaps toughest of all – the man who you claim abused you, is the ultimate mental and emotional test.
You can imagine the dread. You can imagine the pain. You can imagine the sleepless nights and the churning stomach and the nightmares clamoring back from the past you’d rather just put behind you.
“This is the most difficult time of my life,” Victim 4’s statement read. “I can’t put into words how unbearable this has been on my life, both physically and mentally.”
It was all of that for nothing. All of that to have Jerry Sandusky cancel it, to employ a legal strategy that generated all the extra adverse media accounts with none of the trial-benefiting discoveries.
His eventual trial – perhaps late in 2012 unless Sandusky plea-bargains – will be even more difficult than this on the accusers, with the defense capable of cross examination. But often it’s the buildup, the worrying, the wondering and the uncertainty which are the most unpleasant parts of this process.
Sandusky isn’t stupid. He wants to act that way in media interviews, confused at how the world could possibly see his love of children as a crime, but that’s all an act.
He had to know what was going on here, what his decision would do. He had to know that, as this day approached, he was creating a “most difficult time” in a lot of lives he had already made so difficult. He spent his life overwhelming people with mental games. This was his latest.
He had to know that, rather than make these witnesses prepare for the most challenging day of their life once, he’d do it twice – only without offering the satisfaction of looking him in the eye and confronting him directly.
It’s all come tumbling down on Jerry Sandusky. His freedom is gone. His reputation ruined. And most of all, his ability to dominate other people – adults or kids – is over.
He’s facing more than 50 counts of sexual abuse to minors and is a prisoner in his own hellacious life. The once famed football coach is now powerless.
Well, almost. Here he was Tuesday, dictating one last encounter. He took that hearing to the brink, caused all that horrible anticipation, only to say forget it and walk off into the cold morning.
Jerry Sandusky could still torment. His problem is he can’t scare. Not anymore. Those boys are men now. The weak are strong.
“Nothing has changed,” Victim 4 said in his statement. “I still will stand my ground to testify and speak the truth.”
Jerry Sandusky can’t control that. He can’t force silence. No matter his little games, the old man’s day of reckoning is still coming.
More Penn State scandal coverage:
• AP source: Paterno fractures pelvis after fall
• New priorities slow Penn State’s football coach search to a crawl
• Forde-Yard Dash: Damage done extends beyond Penn State