Witness who spurred Sandusky probe testifies

12:17 PM, Jun 12, 2012   |    comments
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (File Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Choking back tears, the alleged victim of Jerry Sandusky who launched the child-sex abuse inquiry against the former Penn State University football coach recounted Tuesday how Sandusky reportedly assaulted him over nearly four years beginning when he was 11 years old.

The witness, now 18, broke down briefly when he detailed the first time Sandusky forced him to perform oral sex in the basement bedroom of Sandusky's State College, Pa., home.

"He sat there (on the edge of the bed) and looked at me and said 'now it's your turn,' " the witness said, his face beginning to contort in pain. "He made me put my mouth on his privates. I don't know how to explain it. My mind wanted me to move but I couldn't move."

After the encounter was over, the witness said Sandusky "looked at me and walked away."

"There were a million things running through my mind," he said.

The teen is the second of Sandusky's accusers to testify in the former coach's high-profile child sex abuse trial that began Monday. Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts involving 10 boys over a 15-year span.

During testimony Sandusky looked at the witness, at times resting his chin on his left hand. At one point, as the witness was recounting explicit sexual encounters with the coach, Senior Deputy Attorney General Joe McGettigan stared at Sandusky who was seated just a few feet away.

The witness, wearing a light open-collar shirt, said he met Sandusky about seven years ago when he was referred to the The Second Mile charity that Sandusky founded for at-risk children.

He said his contact with Sandusky began with innocent outings like basketball and summer camp before he was invited to spend nights at Sandusky's home. During summers he said he spent days at a time at the coach's home in the basement. He said that on 80-90% of those nights Sandusky would engage in some sexual conduct with him.

It always began, he said, with Sandusky allegedly cracking the boy's back and moving his hands into the boy's pants. At various times during testimony the witness stopped, his head bowed and his voice shaking.

He said he began to distance himself from Sandusky in 2008 but Sandusky aggressively pursued him with telephone calls and unplanned visits. On one occasion he said Sandusky followed his school bus from a local high school and confronted the boy about why he was avoiding him. The incident ended when the witness said he took off running with Sandusky following him in his car.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Joe Amendola questioned whether the teen had financial motives for bringing his accusations, which the teen denied.

"All I know is I'm here to tell the truth about what happened to me, just like everybody else," he said.

Complaints by the witness's mother in 2008 prompted a grand jury investigation.

When the boy's mother became suspicious of Sandusky's alleged behavior, prosecutors have said that she took her son - despite concerns of school officials supportive of Sandusky - to state youth authorities.

On Monday another alleged victim told jurors that he was forced into about 50 sexual encounters by Sandusky during the course of five years, beginning when he was about 12 years old.

RELATED | Sandusky witness: I should have spoke out sooner

Now 28, the witness said that his interactions with Sandusky escalated from friendly trips and "soap battles" in the showers of a Penn State locker room to inappropriate touching, then in 1997 veered into dozens of incidents of oral sex.

The witness said that when he tried to distance himself from Sandusky - they first met when the then-12-year-old was participating in programs run by Sandusky's charity - the coach became upset. The witness said later efforts to end contact brought "creepy love letters" in which the coach professed his deep feelings for the boy.

The letters, some hand-printed or written on Penn State stationery, were projected onto a screen. In one, Sandusky refers to "mistakes" before writing "love never ends."

Saying he wanted to "bury forever" the memories, the witness said he agreed to testify only after police "hunted me down." He said he later agreed to provide details to a grand jury after learning that others said they had been victimized by the coach.

"I feel if I just said something back then - I feel responsible for what happened to other victims," he said. He said he sometimes tried to resist the alleged advances, but he never confronted the coach. "I didn't want to lose everything," he said, referring to gifts, trips, cash and access to Penn State football that Sandusky provided. "I was too scared."

The witness said the coach asked him to sign contracts, promising him up to $1,000 for college if he agreed to remain in exercise and study programs monitored by the coach.

When Amendola suggested that the witness had hired a lawyer to pursue a lucrative civil lawsuit against the coach and the university, the witness said he had "never" discussed such a possibility.

Judge John Cleland had ruled earlier that the alleged victims would be identified in court, but USA TODAY generally does not name people claiming sexual abuse.

Cleland has said the trial could take three weeks.

Prosecutors laid out their case Monday morning. McGettigan called Sandusky a "systematic serial predator" who selected victims from a "vast pool" of children involved in The Second Mile.

Occasionally jabbing a finger in Sandusky's direction, he said the former coach always "escalated" his behavior, generally beginning with activities such as trips to ballgames before moving into sexually charged encounters, including intercourse and oral sex. Snowboards, hockey sticks and other items described in a grand jury report as gifts to a victim were carried into the courthouse.

Amendola said his client was innocent and raised the prospect that Sandusky might testify. Acknowledging that Sandusky showered with children, he said Sandusky is "going to tell you it was routine."

He signaled that he would attack the credibility of the alleged victims. Because six have hired civil lawyers, Amendola suggested that they were seeking financial gain by bringing allegations against someone with close ties to a rich university.

"There are no victims in this case," he said. "The only time you can say there is a victim is when you determine beyond a reasonable doubt that Jerry Sandusky is guilty of something."

The trial began seven months after Sandusky's arrest in November.

It triggered a dizzying series of events, including the ouster of university president Graham Spanier and football coaching legend Joe Paterno, who died soon after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Neither Paterno nor Spanier was charged. Athletic director Tim Curley, now on leave, and retired senior vice president Gary Schultz were charged with lying to the grand jury about what they were told about a 2001 incident in the Penn State locker room showers.

Michael McQueary, an assistant football coach on administrative leave, has said he told the administrators he saw Sandusky engaging in sexual conduct with a boy, believed to be about 11, who has not been identified. They told the grand jury that McQueary's account did not describe sexual activity.

They have denied wrongdoing and are awaiting trial on charges of failing to report suspected abuse and lying to the grand jury.

(USA Today)

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