The investigation into Jerry Sandusky took years, and the regional director of the attorney general's State College office said it took a team effort to crack the wall of silence surrounding the abuse of children to get the evidence to put Sandusky behind bars for the rest of his life.
Randy Feathers, who led the investigation team made up of Attorney General's Office agents as well as state police, explained how the task of gathering the evidence that led to the conviction of the retired Penn State assistant football coach ended up in the hands of the State College office of the AG's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation.
"During the Bonusgate investigation, we had a shortage of investigators in Harrisburg," said Feathers.
The Associated Press
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly (left) introduces prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III Friday night after a Centre County jury convicted Jerry Sandusky of 45 counts of child sex abuse.
Once former Attorney General Tom Corbett assigned it to the office, Feathers said he put Agent Anthony Sassano at the helm of furthering the case that had already started with the accusation of abuse by Victim 1 in Clinton County.
"That was the best decision I made in the case," said Feathers, who along with Sassano is a former Altoona police detective. Feathers said Sassano is an experienced investigator with grand jury and wiretapping experience.
Feathers said finding victims was the biggest hurdle in the case, which is why it took nearly three years from the time Victim 1's story became known to police in late 2008 until Sandusky was charged in early November 2011.
With Sandusky's autobiography, "Touched," on hand, Sassano and other investigators began using passages and photos to find victims, such as Victim 4 who appears in the book and accompanied Sandusky to bowl games and other functions.
"I think the evidence showed why it took so long," Feathers said of the investigation, noting that as it progressed and the names of potential victims became known, getting the young men to talk was difficult.
Corbett, Feathers said,
wouldn't have assigned the case to the agents if there was a political motive behind the case, he added.
"We're not the kind of guys you would turn to if it were political," Feathers said, adding that he was honored to have worked with a team of extraordinary investigators and what he considers among the best prosecutors in the country - Joseph McGettigan III, Frank Fina and Jonelle Eshbach.
Investigators suspected there were more victims due to the nature of pedophiles, who rarely abuse only a single child, Feathers said.
"Common sense would say there are other victims," said Feathers.
Plus there was Sandusky's access to The Second Mile. As the investigation unfolded, Sandusky's taste for "skinny blonde boys" became apparent, he said.
Still, the potential victims all shared a common bond with young men who were sexually abused as children - they didn't want to talk. When they did begin to open up, it was gradual, Feathers said. That was especially frustrating once the trial started, because it gave Sandusky's defense team an opening to attack the victim's credibility, he added.
A bill heading to Corbett's desk, Feathers said, would give future prosecutors the ability to put on an expert witness to explain to juries that victims of pedophiles usually react the same way Sandusky's victims did - they don't come forward easily and once they do, their stories gradually show more abuse than they originally admit to because of the shame and embarrassment that plague the victims of childhood sex abuse.
It would also give prosecutors the ability to put on a witness to show how pedophiles operate, something prosecutors couldn't do in the Sandusky case.
"It's a textbook case of how victims react," Feathers said of the Sandusky victims, whose stories evolved to reveal increasing degrees of abuse, the more they spoke with investigators.
As for whether the cases of the two alleged victims who came forward through their respective attorneys during the trial - Sandusky's adopted son Matt Sandusky and Travis Weaver - will ever make it to a courtroom is a question for prosecutors in the Attorney General's Office, Feathers said.
It's also likely more alleged victims will follow, and Feathers said he believes the case will have an effect nationwide, giving victims the courage to go to police with their stories.
"We've seen that already," Feathers said.
It's also helped the young men who confronted Sandusky during the trial.
"They're so much better off," Feathers said. "I spoke to a couple of victims [Friday after the verdict]. They were ecstatic."
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.