BELLEFONTE, Pa.— The first witness to take the stand against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky said he regretted having kept the alleged sexual abuse a secret, and feels guilty because of the other boys that prosecutors say were victimized after him.
Called Victim 4 in court papers but identified by his name in court, he told jurors Monday that the 68-year-old Sandusky molested him in the locker room showers and in hotels while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips. He was the first of as many as eight young men who may take the stand.
The 28-year-old says Sandusky sent him “creepy love letters” and treated him like a son in public, but like a girlfriend in private.
“I’ve spent, you know, so many years burying this in the back of my head forever,” he told the jury. “I thought I was the only person … then I find out that this has happened over and over and over again, forever, and I feel if I just would have said something back then, they would not have had this happen to them. So I feel responsible for … other victims.”
Victim 4 discussed notes from Sandusky as well as a series of contract-like documents in which he promised to reach certain life goals, such as studying or playing sports, in return for which Sandusky would provide him money for his post high school education.
He left nothing to the imagination as he told the jury about the abuse he said he endured for five years beginning when he was a teenager in the late 1990s.
Sandusky faces 52 counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he denies. He could spend the rest of his life in state prison if convicted. His arrest last year shamed the university and led to the ouster of beloved Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and Penn State’s president.
Testimony is expected to continue Tuesday with so-called Victim 1, a young man whose mother contacted authorities about Sandusky four years ago, starting the investigation that eventually led to charges.
But in opening statements to the seven woman, five man jury on Monday, lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan described Sandusky as a “serial predator” and noted there were several missed chances for authorities to intervene before Sandusky was eventually arrested.
McGettigan said Sandusky methodically used his youth charity, The Second Mile, to zero in on fatherless children or those with unstable home lives, plied them with gifts and took advantage of them sexually.
Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola countered that the case is flimsy and that some of the accusers apparently intend to sue and have a financial stake in the case — a preview of the battle to come as the defense tries to undermine the credibility of the young men upon whom the case rests.
Until Monday, none of them had testified publicly, and their identities were shielded. The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes.
Amendola said Sandusky family members would testify, and at one point suggested Sandusky himself might take the stand.
Victim 4 spoke calmly and firmly under questioning by the prosecutor, and acknowledged he had at first lied to police and even his own attorney about the alleged abuse.
“I don’t even want to be involved now, to be honest,” he said.
In public, he said, Sandusky would assume a fatherlike role and image, but in private it was a different story.
In the car, Sandusky “would put his hand on my leg, basically like I was his girlfriend. … It freaked me out extremely bad,” the man said, extending his arm and pushing it back and forth. “I pushed it away. … After a little while, it would come right back. That drove me nuts.”
The man said he met Sandusky through The Second Mile and that they began showering together in 1997. What began as “soap battles” quickly progressed to oral sex and other contact, the accuser said, adding that he was 90 or 100 pounds and powerless to resist the advances of the much larger man.
According to the witness, Sandusky tried assaulting him in a hotel bathroom before a bowl banquet in Texas and threatened to send him home when he resisted, warning: “You don’t want to go back, do you?” Sandusky stopped only when his wife, Dottie, called out from another room, the witness said.
Over the years, the witness said, he never told Sandusky to stop. “It was never talked about, ever,” the man said. “It was basically like whatever happened there never really happened.”
Sometimes the incidents would immediately be followed by a trip to a store, where Sanduskywould purchase a gift for him.
A self-described college football fan, the man said he enjoyed the access to Penn State football games and facilities. At one point, the man said, Sandusky let him wear the No. 11 uniform of LaVar Arrington, and a photo of him wearing that shirt was shown to jurors.
The man testified that Sandusky also took him on trips to bowl games, including the Outback and the Alamo. He gave the boy golf clubs, snowboards, drum sets and various Penn State memorabilia, including a watch from the Orange Bowl, the man testified. He said he would wear gift jerseys to school, and his association with Sandusky was both a point of pride and an object of teasing, causing him to repeatedly deny to peers that Sandusky was abusing him.
One letter, shown on a video screen in court, was handwritten on Penn State letterhead and signed “Jerry.” It read: “I know that I have made my share of mistakes. However I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart.”
Eventually, as the man got older and acquired a girlfriend, he became “basically sick of what was happening to me” and distanced himself from Sandusky. They had not spoken since 2002 when, in 2010, he brought his girlfriend and 3-year-old son to visit the Sanduskys in what he said was an attempt to convince his girlfriend her suspicions about Sandusky were not true.
He said that “backfired” when Sandusky gave him a lot of attention and tried to rub his shoulders.
Under cross-examination by Amendola, the man expressed regret for not coming forward earlier, saying: “I feel if I just said something back then … I feel responsible for what happened to other victims.” He said he had spent years “burying this in the back of my head.”
During his opening statement, Amendola said Sandusky’s showering with children was innocuous and part of his upbringing in southwestern Pennsylvania, where his parents ran a rec center.
“In Jerry’s culture, growing up in his generation, where he grew up, he’s going to tell you it was routine for individuals to get showers together,” the lawyer said. “I suspect for those of you who might have been in athletics, it’s routine.”
Amendola also said that Mike McQueary, the football team assistant who reported seeing Sandusky naked in a shower with a boy in 2001, was mistaken about what he saw.
“We don’t think that he lied. What we think is that he saw something and made assumptions,” the lawyer told the jury.
Amendola also said that at least six of the alleged victims have civil lawyers, adding: “These young men had a financial interest in this case and pursuing this case.”
Several of those lawyers were in the court gallery on Monday, observing the trial.