BELLEFONTE - This is the year when child sexual abuse victims begin to fight back, a victims' advocate said Tuesday outside Centre County Court.
Matt Bodenschatz, a Penn State student who heads a group called Voices for Victims, made the proclamation after Jerry Sandusky, pale and aged in his red Centre County Prison suit, defiantly stated in court that he never sexually abused boys who were part of his The Second Mile charity.
Bodenschatz described what Sandusky's victims said to Senior Judge John M. Cleland Jr. as "poetic."
Several victims came forward and spoke before a packed courtroom for Sandusky's sentencing. Most had remained silent for a decade or more about Sandusky's abuse until they were called before a statewide grand jury to relate what Sandusky did to them.
Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. Cleland sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in state prison - the equivalent of a life sentence for the 68-year-old man.
"I'm not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law will permit that," the judge continued.
Cleland praised the courage of the victims for coming forward and he told Sandusky "the tragedy of this crime is that it's a story of betrayal."
"The most obvious aspect is your betrayal of 10 children," Cleland said. "You were respected, trusted, admired. They grew to really love you."
Addressing the young victims, Cleland said, "It is for your courage, not for your assault, that you will be remembered."
Testimony during Sandusky's three-week trial in June showed he took them to football games and other athletic contests, and appeared to them as a mentor and father figure - then he betrayed them through his abuse.
The reaction to the sentence was immediate.
Dominic Ramunni, a second-year Penn State student who sat in the back of the courtroom as the crowd went outside, said it's been a tough year for the Penn State community.
"I think we finally have closure. ... I hope we do," he said.
David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, talked about the "extraordinary courage for the victims to speak as they did."
He said he believes there are other victims out there who will see what the Sandusky victims did and come forward, taking the attitude that "if those guys are strong enough to come forward, I am too."
Speaking up is important as a step toward helping the victim go forward with his life, Clohessy said.
Attorney Michael Boni, representing Victim 1, said his client for the first time realized "the torment of his life [Sandusky]" will spend the rest of his life in jail.
When Sandusky was tried in June, each of the eight days of testimony was greeted by the packed courtroom with a nervous energy that was fueled by the expectation of revealing testimony and the jury's ultimate verdict.
On Tuesday, the courtroom crowd appeared quiet, respectful, knowing that a one-time community and Penn State icon was about to be sentenced for what would amount to a life sentence, and that some of the victims and Sandusky would have something to say.
Cleland began by announcing there would be a Megan's Law hearing to determine if Sandusky was a sexually violent predator. Under Pennsylvania law, sexually violent predators must register with police for life once released from prison.
Sandusky's defense attorney, Joseph Amendola, quickly took the steam out of that hearing by stating that Sandusky, while maintaining his innocence, would not oppose a prosecution recommendation that he be declared a predator.
Sandusky meets the criteria under the law to be classified as a predator, Senior Deputy Attorney Joseph McGettigan said.
Cleland agreed, declaring him a sexually violent predator.
Then McGettigan had his turn before the judge, pointing out, "No words I could utter will speak with the eloquence of the victims."
Sandusky used The Second Mile to involve himself in the lives of the children, and unbeknownst to the mothers of the children, he abused their boys, McGettigan said.
"He treated the victims as human property to be used as he saw fit," said McGettigan.
Amendola followed with his comments, calling it a sad day for Sandusky and his supporters. He said there was another side to Sandusky that he wanted people to know about.
According to many neighbors, friends, co-workers and football players, Sandusky was a "kind, giving person."
He and his wife, Dottie, adopted six children, and Sandusky's wife and five of those children remain committed to him, Amendola said. His son, Matt, offered to testify against his father, a move that stopped Sandusky from testifying in his own defense in June, Amendola said after the guilty verdicts.
Many children from The Second Mile have gone on to "wonderful lives," Amendola said.
McGettigan read a statement from Victim 1, a young man who said Sandusky humiliated him with his abuse. He said he now suffers "emotional agony" and said he has been looking over my shoulder "for a very long time."
Sandusky, he lamented, showed "no remorse, no acknowledgment of regret."
The mother of Victim 9 said she wondered why her boy was physically ill and made two attempts to take his own life - learning eventually Sandusky was molesting him.
She blamed herself, pointing out both she and her son are in therapy.
She called Sandusky "a horrible person."
Victim 6 said Sandusky's abuse was like a "knife wound buried in the garden of my heart for years."
Victim 5 said he suffers from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares and other problems and can't get Sandusky out of his mind. He said he knows he has a difficult road to travel but it must be done.
"I grew up in a bad situation and you only made matters worse," Victim 4 told Sandusky.
Sandusky issued a statement Monday to ComRadio, the Penn State student radio station, indicating that many people have suffered "as a result of false allegations."
He followed the same script in his address to Cleland talking of a conspiracy that included the media, Penn State, the system and others.
"They can take away my life. They can make me out a monster. They can treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart," he said.
"I speak today with hope in my heart for a brighter day, not knowing if that day will come. Many moments have been spent looking for a purpose. Maybe it will help others, some vulnerable children who might have been abused, might not be, as a result of the publicity."
He read a letter from a Second Mile client who stated, "I love you Jerry," and he talked about the good times when he was playing with kids, tossing them in the air while swimming and tossing water balloons at them.
He said he has lived long enough to cherish his memories.
"I'm going to smile. ... I'm going to laugh. I'm going to cry. That's who I am," he said.
McGettigan called Sandusky's court statement "delusional, ludicrous, self-centered and a testimony to himself."
Amendola and fellow defense attorney Karl E. Rominger of Harrisburg said they will appeal, challenging a statement McGettigan made during his closing argument at the June trial and indicating Cleland did not give them ample time to prepare a defense.
Amendola pointed out Sandusky had only four months to prepare for trial while two Penn State officials, charged with perjury and covering up Sandusky's abuse - only two charges - will have 14 months, at least, to prepare for trial.
The two officials - retired Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz and Athletics Director Tim Curley, who remains on a leave of absence - are due to go on trial in January in Dauphin County Court.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.