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Sandusky asserts innocence day before sentencing

Caption
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center, leaves the Centre County Courthouse in custody June 22 after being found guilty of multiple charges of child sexual abuse in Bellefonte, Pa. Sandusky, 68, will be sentenced Tuesday, for sexually abusing 10 boys in a scandal that rocked the university and brought down coach Joe Paterno. Sandusky asserted his innocence Monday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Defiant and unrepentant, Jerry Sandusky blasted Penn State, his accusers and the news media Monday in a taped jailhouse statement the day before he is to be sentenced on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.

The former assistant football coach blamed a “well-orchestrated” conspiracy for putting him behind bars and questioned whether any good could come from the publicity his case has received.

“They can take away my life. They can make me out as a monster. They can treat me as a monster, but they can’t take away my heart,” Sandusky said, his voice measured and assertive. “In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts.”

The student-produced news website PSUComMedia.com, sponsored by the university’s College of Communications, posted the three-minute statement Monday, less than 24 hours before Sandusky, 68, was to receive a sentence likely to send him to prison for the rest of his life. Karl Rominger, one of the former coach’s attorneys, confirmed the recording’s authenticity.

Sandusky’s assertions on the tape came the same day his defense team signaled that it had abandoned plans to plead for leniency during Tuesday’s hearing and had shifted its focus to appealing his conviction.

“The bottom line is this: How can he be remorseful if he maintains his innocence?” Sandusky attorney Joseph Amendola said when emerging Monday afternoon from an in-chambers conference with Judge John M. Cleland.

Rominger said Sandusky would likely read a similar statement in court Monday, and acknowledged that his client understood the risks posed by adopting a confrontational tone in front of the judge deciding his fate.

“Why worry about the niceties of pleasing the court when it won’t change your sentence?” Rominger said.

He added that he would be surprised if Sandusky received less than a 30-year sentence.

State prosecutors did not return calls Monday night seeking comment after Sandusky’s statement was posted.

Under state sentencing guidelines, Cleland could impose a sentence ranging from 10 years to more than 400 for the 45 counts of child sex abuse on which Sandusky was convicted in June.

Those charges include multiple counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and corruption of minors, the most serious of which carry 10-year minimum sentences. Cleland could decide to have Sandusky serve them concurrently rather than consecutively.

Throughout the former coach’s two-week trial, eight young men testified that the man many looked at as a mentor and father figure molested them, in some cases for years.

Prosecutors presented evidence implicating Sandusky in the abuse of 10 boys, all of whom he met through the Second Mile, the charity he founded for underprivileged youth. Many testified that the coach, revered on the campus, took them to football games, showered them with gifts and then abused them on Penn State’s campus, where his reputation scared many of them into keeping silent.

Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan said Monday that as many as six of those men would take the stand Tuesday in the hope of convincing Cleland that Sandusky’s crimes warrant the harshest punishment. When asked what he felt an appropriate sentence might be, McGettigan remained circumspect.

“We are confident the court will impose an appropriate sentence,” he said.

The former coach’s lawyers said Monday that while his wife and five of his children submitted letters of support to the court, none was expected to testify Tuesday.

A sixth son, after initially volunteering to testify as a defense witness, came forward during his father’s trial and claimed he, too, was molested as a child.

That development, Sandusky’s attorneys have said, prompted the former coach to reconsider his own plan to take the stand, for fear that his son’s accusations might come up in cross-examination.

But Sandusky has come to regret that decision and maintains his innocence of all allegations, Amendola said Monday.

Many of the former accusers told similar stories of abuse that began with lingering hugs and light touching, and escalated to more harrowing encounters involving oral sex, masturbation and rape.

Sandusky conceded that he often showered with the boys after workouts but suggested in his taped statement Monday that their parallel accusations originated with one publicity-hungry accuser whose version of events ended up shading the testimony of the others, thanks to the aggressive tactics of prosecutors.

That young man, identified in court documents as Victim 1, launched the Sandusky investigation with his allegations in 2009. He has since announced plans to publish a memoir this month and reveal his identity in an interview with ABC News.

“A young man who is dramatic and a veteran accuser and always sought attention started everything,” the former coach said in his taped statement, without identifying the man by name or pseudonym. “He was joined by a well-orchestrated effort of the media, investigators, the system, Penn State, psychologists, civil attorneys and other accusers. They won. I’ve wondered what they really won. Attention, financial gain, prestige will all be temporary.”

Since his conviction, Sandusky has remained in protective custody in the Centre County, Pa., jail, spending much of his time preparing for his post-sentencing appeals, his lawyers said.

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)

Already, the former coach’s lawyers have made the case that they did not have adequate time to prepare a full defense due to the short time between Sandusky’s arrest last year and his trial this summer. That argument is expected to become the primary basis for their appeal.

“Over and over, I asked, why? Why didn’t we have a fair opportunity to prepare for trial? Why have so many people suffered as a result of false allegations?” Sandusky said Monday. “What’s the purpose? Maybe it will help others — some vulnerable children who could be abused might not be as a result of all the publicity. That would be nice, but I’m not sure.”

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