In one of the least difficult verdicts in judicial history the jury has found former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky guilty on 45 of 48 charges. The verdict was met with loud cheers from the crowd outside the courthouse.
The conviction means that Sandusky will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison, most likely in solitary confinement (or if not his sentence will be quite short).
According to experts, the minimum sentence he would get is 60 years, which means even with half time off for good behavior he would serve at least 30 years. This would make him around 100 at the time of possible release. Sentencing is expected to take place in about three months.
It appears he will be heading to prison right away, the judge did have the option to keep him on house arrest until formal sentencing but he did not do so. That may be as much for Sandusky’s personal safety than anything else.
There is of course the option of appeal and in an interview on CNN one of his attorneys did suggest they might have grounds for appeal on certain charges, based less on his innocence than on legal technicalities. But even the best appeal is not going to keep him from spending many decades in prison.
During his press conference outside the courthouse Sandusky defense attorney Joe Amendola praised the prosecution, the judge and the jury which is a somewhat unusual move for an attorney planning appeals.
When he alluded to the possibility that Sandusky might be innocent on some charges the crowd openly mocked him, yelling comments like “Do you think he is innocent Joe ?”, comments to which the attorney did not respond.
By contrast the prosecution team was openly and rather loudly cheered by the crowd when they came out. I’ve watched a number of these verdicts over the years and I do not recall many where there was such open enthusiasm for the prosecution (then again it is rare to have a defendant like Sandusky).
It still seems almost unreal that someone could be sick enough to not just prey on young boys but to prey on the most vulnerable and unprotected ones of all. Even more shocking is that people stood by and allowed it to happen. As horrific what he did was, an argument could be made that Sandusky suffered from a sickness, those who stood by and watched have no such excuse.
The next step will almost certainly be civil lawsuits, and if the university (and the state of Pennsylvania behind it) takes the smart route they will do everything they can to settle the lawsuits as quickly as they can. By the same token I hope that the plaintiffs are wise enough to take reasonable settlements so that they can put this nightmare behind them.
Although I am obviously pleased that a guilty man will be punished, my real hope is that this case will open the eyes of everyone out there who might think that they can look the other way. There ARE children out there right now being abused, and any one of us who fails to stand up and defend and protect those children are as guilty as Jerry Sandusky is, perhaps even more so.