The sex-abuse trial of former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky opened in Bellefonte, Pa., on Monday, with a few surprises and some graphic testimony from one of Sandusky's alleged victims. Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 counts for allegedly abusing 10 boys over a span of 15 years; if convicted, he could face a sentence of 500-plus years in prison. Sandusky says he's innocent. A jury of seven women and five men will decide his fate after what Judge John Cleland says could be less than three weeks of trial. Here are six key revelations from the first day:
1. Eight alleged victims will testify
Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III opened by calling Sandusky a "predatory pedophile" who used his children's charity, The Second Mile, to befriend and groom boys for sexual relationships. The prosecution's case rests on testimony from eight men who say they were molested by Sandusky as boys, between ages 10 and 15. All eight men, now 18 to 28, are expected to testify. Their names will be made public for the first time when they take the stand, although most news organizations are declining to use the names, instead referring to the men as the court documents do — Victims 1 through 10. (Witnesses allegedly saw two of the victims being abused, but prosecutors never located them.)
2. Victim 4 says Sandusky treated him like a girlfriend
The first accuser, Victim 4, took the stand on the first day, testifying that Sandusky sexually abused him for more than two years starting in 1997, when he was about 13. "When we were out in front of other people, like a golf outing, that's when he treated me like his son," he said. "When we were alone, he tried to treat me like his girlfriend." It escalated from showering together after racquetball to "soap battles" involving inappropriate genital touching to oral sex, said Victim 4, now 28. In car rides with Sandusky, for example, the coach "would put his hand on my leg, basically like I was his girlfriend.... It freaked me out extremely bad."
3. When the boy tried to move on, Sandusky offered a contract
Victim 4 says he never told anybody about the abuse because he liked the perks — gifts, sideline tickets to Penn State football games, the prestige and access Sandusky provided — and because he was ashamed. After about two years, though, Victim 4 says he started distancing himself from Sandusky, and the coach allegedly offered him a contract that promised money if he continued to keep up his grades — and exercise with Sandusky three times a week. The contract, called the Program, was entered into court records, as were what Victim 4 called "creepy love letters" from Sandusky. An official at Second Mile, the ostensible sponsor of the contract, said he's never heard of the Program.
4. Sandusky's wife allegedly walked in on him
Victim 4 testified that during a trip to Dallas for the 1999 Alamo Bowl, he stayed in a hotel room with Sandusky and his wife, Dottie. Sandusky tried to get the boy to perform oral sex on him when the two were alone in the bathroom, threatening to send him home if he didn't comply, the witness said. "What happened then is literally 10 seconds later, the bathroom door is not shut completely... and the other door is open, and I heard Dottie say 'Jerry' and he ran out. And she said, 'What are you doing in there?'"
5. Sandusky will apparently testify
"The first big revelation of the Jerry Sandusky trial... was supposed to be the reading of 'love letters' allegedly written by Sandusky to his victims," says Ben Kercheval at NBC Sports. Instead, "the defense came out with a surprise of its own": Sandusky will take the stand. "He's going to tell you later, it was routine for individuals to take showers together," said lead defense lawyer Joe Amendola. Sandusky's plan to take the stand appeared to surprise prosecutors.
6. The defense will blame mental illness, discredit witnesses
Sandusky's case will rely on trying to convince the jurors that in athletics it's pretty normal for people to take group showers, that the alleged victims are also suing Sandusky in civil court, and thus have a financial stake in the trial's outcome; the defense will also argue that Sandusky wrote love letters due to a psychological condition called histrionic personality disorder. "The testimony is going to be awful," Amendola conceded, "but that doesn't make it true, and that's the bottom line."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Pope Francis' American problem
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The week's best photojournalism
- 10 things you need to know today: December 20, 2014
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- 4 things NASA can teach you about a good night's sleep
Subscribe to the Week