Published June 23, 2012
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces life in prison following his conviction late Friday of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years, a scandal that shook the storied football program to its core and caused the university to fire legendary coach Joe Paterno.
Sandusky, 65, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs after being found guilty of 45 of 48 counts. Sentencing will be in about three months, but mandatory minimums will keep him behind bars for life. Joseph Amendola, Sandusky's lead defense attorney, confirmed to FoxNews.com on Saturday that he has been placed on suicide watch, citing "standard procedure" in a high-profile case.
Sandusky, a retired defensive coach who was once Paterno's heir apparent, showed little emotion as the verdict was read, giving his wife, Dottie, and family members a half-wave as the county sheriff led him away. Bystanders also hurled insults at him, including one who yelled for Sandusky to "rot in hell," to which the former Penn State icon shook his head.
There were only three acquittals among the charges related to 10 victims, eight of whom took the stand to describe fondling, forced oral sex and anal rape. Many of the accusers testified that they had told no one of the abuse that dated as far back as the mid-1990s -- not parents, not girlfriends and not police.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly spoke immediately after the verdict, praising the victims for the courage to testify. She said she hopes the verdict "helps these victims heal and helps other victims of abuse to come forward."
"One of the recurring themes in this case was, `Who would believe a kid?'," she said. "The answer is `We here in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, would believe a kid."
Attorneys Justine Andronici and Andrew Shubin, who represent some of the victims of Sandusky's sexual abuse, including Victim 3 and Victim 7 who testified in the trial, said in a statement their clients are "relieved and grateful" about the verdict.
"The verdict is a direct result of the victims' inspiring courage," the statement read. "The victims provided heart-wrenching accounts of abuse, manipulation and betrayal by one of the most powerful and protected members of this community."
The accuser known in court papers as Victim 6 broke down in tears upon hearing the verdicts in the courtroom. Afterward, a prosecutor embraced him and said, "Did I ever lie to you?"
The man, now 25, testified that Sandusky called himself the "tickle monster" in a shower assault. Though he declined to comment afterwards, his mother told the Associated Press "Nobody wins. We've all lost."
Amendola said in a press conference the trial was like climbing Mt. Everest, and "obviously we didn't make it."
Amendola said they expected the guilty verdict, and said he wished he had had more time to prepare for the trial and review all the evidence.
"I think most of you would have agreed with me that if someone said last November that if we had a trial in early June, that you would have agreed its not very likely at all," he said. "And here are, with a trail that has now concluded and its still the later time in June."
He said that the family is very disappointed with the outcome. Another defense attorney, Karl Rominger, said it was "a tough case" with a lot of charges and that an appeal was certain.
Eight young men testified in a central Pennsylvania courtroom about a range of abuse, from kissing and massages to groping, oral sex and anal rape. For two other alleged victims, prosecutors relied on testimony from a university janitor and then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, whose account of a sexual encounter between Sandusky and a boy of about 10 ultimately led to the Paterno's dismissal and the university president's ouster.
The ex-coach had repeatedly denied the allegations, and his defense suggested that his accusers had a financial motive to make up stories, years after the fact. His attorney also painted Sandusky as the victim of overzealous police investigators who coached the alleged victims into giving accusatory statements. Sandusky did not take the stand in his own defense.
However, jurors believed the testimony that, in the words of lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III, Sandusky was a "predatory pedophile."
One accuser testified that Sandusky molested him in the locker-room showers and in hotels while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips to bowl games. He also said Sandusky had sent him "creepy love letters."
Another spoke of forced oral sex and instances of rape in the basement of Sandusky's home, including abuse that left him bleeding. He said he once tried to scream for help, knowing that Sandusky's wife was upstairs, but figured the basement must be soundproof.
Another, a foster child, said Sandusky warned that he would never see his family again if he ever told anyone what happened.
Just hours after the case went to jurors, lawyers for one of Sandusky's six adopted children, Matt, said he had told authorities that his father abused him.
Matt Sandusky had been prepared to testify on behalf of prosecutors, the statement said. The lawyers said they arranged for Matt Sandusky to meet with law enforcement officials but did not explain why he didn't testify.
"This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt and he has asked us to convey his request that the media respect his privacy," the statement said. It didn't go into details about his allegations.
Defense witnesses, including Jerry Sandusky's wife, Dottie, described his philanthropic work with children over the years, and many spoke in positive terms about his reputation in the community. Prosecutors had portrayed those efforts as an effective means by which Sandusky could camouflage his molestation as he targeted boys who were the same age as participants in The Second Mile, a charity he founded in the 1970s for at-risk youth.
Sandusky's arrest in November led the Penn State trustees to fire Paterno as head coach, saying he exhibited a lack of leadership after fielding a report from McQueary. The scandal also led to the ouster of university president Graham Spanier, and criminal charges against two university administrators for failing to properly report suspected child abuse and perjury.
The two administrators, athletic director Tim Curley and now-retired vice president Gary Schultz, are fighting the allegations and await trial.
The university released a statement after the verdict was read, saying they have "tremendous respect" for the victims who testified.
"No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky," the statement read, "But we do hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing."
Sandusky had initially faced 52 counts of sex abuse. The judge dropped four counts during the trial, saying two were unproven, one was brought under a statute that didn't apply and another was duplicative.
FoxNews.com's Jana Winter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.