The eyewitness testimony that confronted jurors in Jerry Sandusky’s child-molestation trial this week was disturbing not only for its graphic descriptions of sex with boys, but for what it said about the people who surrounded and maybe even protected the once-revered Penn State assistant coach.
Eight accusers took the witness stand and described how Sandusky molested them in campus showers, hotel bathrooms, a basement bedroom, a sauna used by the football team – right under the noses of his friends, colleagues, family members and acquaintances.
The Sandusky story, the way authorities have framed it, is one littered with missed chances to stop an alleged rapist who allegedly preyed on children for years.
Prosecutors have hinted that top university officials knew far more about Sandusky’s alleged proclivities than they have let on, submitting a document Monday that says Penn State’s former vice president – himself facing charges related to the scandal – maintained a file on Sandusky a decade ago. A Penn State trustee told The Associated Press he now suspects a cover-up.
Yet evidence and testimony from the trial also show there were plenty of people, not just those at the highest levels of the university, who had ample opportunity to stop a man accused of violating 10 boys over 15 years:
• A janitor failed to tell authorities he allegedly caught Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy in a campus shower a dozen years ago.
• A district attorney with a reputation for prosecuting cases involving children and sexual abuse victims declined to charge Sandusky over a 1998 molestation allegation. The DA, Ray Gricar, disappeared in 2005 and was declared legally dead last year.
• School district officials were skeptical of abuse claims brought by the young man known in court papers as Victim 1 because, the accuser testified, Sandusky was considered to have a “heart of gold.” Victim 1’s allegations eventually triggered the state investigation that produced charges.
• One accuser testified he screamed out for help at least once when Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, was in the house. He doesn’t know whether she heard his cries.
• And, famously, coaching assistant Mike McQueary saw Sandusky having what he believed to be anal sex with a young boy in 2001. But his report to Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz went nowhere.
The trial is scheduled to enter its fifth day Monday as prosecutors near the end of their case. Sandusky denies all the charges, saying that while he showered with boys, he never touched them sexually. His attorney has suggested the accusers are twisting the truth because they intend to sue.