Jury deliberations begin in Sandusky sex abuse trial

(Note: explicit sexual content)

BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - The jury in the child sexual abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky began deliberations on Thursday, after they heard a prosecutor describe the former Penn State football coach as "a serial predatory pedophile" who preyed on young boys yearning for a father figure.

"I feel as if I have pieces of 10 souls in my pockets," Joseph McGettigan III told jurors before walking across the courtroom to stand next to a seated Sandusky, who looked with a start over his shoulder.

"Give them back their souls," the prosecutor told the jury of seven women and five men deciding the trial of Sandusky, 68, who is accused of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, sometimes in Pennsylvania State University locker rooms.

Jurors, who are sequestered during deliberations, earlier heard from Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola, who said in closing arguments that the onetime football coach had been ruined by overzealous prosecutors and false allegations by accusers hoping for a big payday down the road from civil lawsuits.

When the criminal charges were filed late last year, "Mr. Sandusky's world came to an end, his wife's world came to the end, his children's world came to an end," Amendola said.

"I submit to you they were going to get him come Hell or high water, even if they had to coach witnesses," Amendola said.

A long line of spectators on Thursday waited outside the courthouse to get a seat for final arguments in a case that has put renewed attention on the issue of child sexual abuse in the United States and prompted the firing in November of Penn State President Graham Spanier and head football coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno, who won more games than any major college coach, died of lung cancer in January.

The session began with Judge John Cleland giving final instructions to jurors ahead of the deliberations, telling them a sex abuse conviction must be based on more than whether a child "feels uncomfortable."

"The critical issue is not that the child feels uncomfortable ... the issue is not what the child felt, the issue is what the adult intended," he said.

The defense wrapped up its case on Wednesday after little more than two days of testimony without calling Sandusky to the stand.

He faces more than 500 years in prison if convicted on all the criminal counts.

One of the spectators, Kay Reyes, a retired Latin teacher, said she had driven from her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with her daughter, a lawyer, to attend the trial.

"If this didn't involve famous people, this would be a slam dunk for the prosecution," said Reyes, who was carrying a sign that said "The Victims = True American Heroes."

The accusers "are the ones who throughout all this have shown bravery, valor and dignity," Reyes said.

Eight alleged victims, now aged 18 to 28, testified for the prosecution last week. They described in often-graphic detail about meeting Sandusky as boys through his charity, the Second Mile, and then being abused, including by groping, shared showers and oral and anal sex.

McGettigan, the prosecutor, rejected Amendola's claims that those alleged victims were seeking a big payday, and conspiring with prosecutors and police investigators.

He said such a conspiracy would have had to start in 1994 when the first alleged abuse began and continued for years, and included such figures as Mike McQueary, the Penn State coach football coach who testified he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a locker room shower in 2001.

"There are only two possible constructs - either we are conspirators and corrupt or we are hoodwinked," he said of the prosecution team.

Earlier on Thursday, Cleland also threw out three charges against Sandusky. The one-time coach still faces 48 criminal charges related to child sex abuse allegations.

Cleland said that the testimony of one of the victims, Number 4, failed to support two of the counts, while a third count was duplicative.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Jim Loney)