FORMER PENN STATE American football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in prison today, in a high-profile child sex case that shocked the US.
At an emotional hearing marked by tearful statements from victims, Judge John Cleland told Sandusky, 68, that he was imposing a prison term that had “the unmistakable impact of being for the rest of your life.”
Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse in June, after a trial in which he was found guilty of molesting 10 children over a 15-year period, meeting them through a charity he founded for troubled youth.
The former university coach, clad in a red prison scrubs with the words “Center County” on the back, gave a rambling, 20-minute statement during his sentencing hearing in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He spoke about seeing visions on the dank walls of the prison where he has been incarcerated for the past 112 days since his conviction.
“I see me throwing thousands of kids in the air,” Sandusky said. “And hundreds of water balloon battles.”
Sandusky protested his innocence and did not apologise to his victims.
Prosecutors said Sandusky had all the advantages that should have led to a productive life, but instead spent his time setting up a charity that he used as a vehicle for child sex abuse.
“Instead of being a productive citizen,” assistant attorney general Joseph McGettigan told the court, “he worked diligently to construct a mechanism to acquire victims.”
Sandusky, who stood accused of molesting 10 boys between 1994 and 2008, allegedly recruited his young victims through a programme he ran for abused and neglected youths. Eight victims took the stand at his trial, offering graphic testimony about Sandusky’s actions on campus, in hotel rooms and at his home. Another coach told the court he saw Sandusky rape a boy in the showers at Penn State.
The headline-grabbing scandal has tarnished the legacy of Pennsylvania State University, which boasts one of the country’s most illustrious football teams.
The scandal led to the downfall of Penn State’s legendary head coach Joe Paterno, a national icon whose fall from grace came just a few weeks before his unexpected death from lung cancer in January at the age of 85.
Paterno was fired in November for failing to notify authorities when he was told Sandusky had been seen molesting a boy in the shower. The university’s president, Graham Spanier, was also sacked. Two other Penn State officials, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, face trial for lying to a grand jury investigating Sandusky.