PROSECUTORS DESCRIBED FORMER Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky as a “systematic, serial predator” as his high-profile pedophilia trial began on Monday.
Sandusky, 68, accused of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, allegedly lured his young victims under the guise of a program he ran for abused and neglected youth.
The case caused widespread shock in the United States, where many are obsessed by college sports and hold up their team’s American football coaches as heroes. Prosecutors say Sandusky recruited his victims through his Second Mile charity, which went bankrupt last month after donations dried up in the wake of the scandal.
Sandusky, who defense attorneys said is expected to testify, faces 52 criminal counts of sexually abusing at least 10 boys between 1994 and 2008, with some of the alleged incidents taking place on campus.
His defense attorney Joseph Amendola told the court that Sandusky’s accusers were fabricating their allegations for a variety of reasons “including troubled lives, money and because they mistook friendly overtures for sexual ones.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, let me say to you, there are no victims in this case,” Amendola said, insisting on his client’s innocence.
The defense attorney said that the physical contact Sandusky engaged in is a routine part of the locker room environment, where nakedness and high-spirited horseplay are not unusual.
“What you will hear from my defendant when he testifies, is that there was no sexual touching — there was fooling around in the shower,” Amendola said.
But prosecutor Joseph McGettigan, told jurors that Sandusky used post-workout showers as a pretext to get physically close to victims in order to sexually molest them, and that he abused the trust of the university as well as that of the now-defunct Second Mile charity.
McGettigan said evidence he would present over the course of the trial would include testimony from the alleged victims, who were to provide graphic detail about the abuse they were subjected to at Sandusky’s hands.
“Someone might say, ‘hasn’t the (state) selected victims’?” McGettigan told the jury. “We didn’t select them. We discovered them.”
The prosecutor said Sandusky was a “systematic, serial predator” and told the jury — seven women and five men — that investigators found lists belonging to the coach that showed the names of his victims marked with an asterisk.
The trial also marks the first time that victims were to speak publicly about their ordeal, McGettigan said. The headline-grabbing scandal, among the most worst ever to hit college sport in the United States, has tarnished the legacy of Pennsylvania State University, one of this country’s most illustrious college football programs.
It also led to the firing of Penn State’s longtime head football coach Joe Paterno, a national icon whose fall from grace preceded by just a few weeks his unexpected death from lung cancer in January at the age of 85.
The legendary coach was fired in November over his alleged failure to notify authorities when he was told Sandusky had been seen molesting a boy in the team’s shower.
Jurors in the trial have been selected from around the State College area, including eight people with ties to the university, raising a question in the minds of observers as to whether they will be able to render a truly impartial verdict.
Prosecutors had asked to recruit the jurors from outside Centre County, where the Penn State is the largest employer, but were denied.