CHICAGO, June 23, 2012 — Former Penn State football assistant head coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on Friday of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. There were 52 original counts lodged against him. The judge dropped four prior to the trial. The jury deliberated for two days. Sandusky, 68, faces 442 years in prison. Estimates are he will receive a 60-90 year sentence. He will die in prison.
When the verdict was announced the crowd outside the courthouse cheered.
Sandusky’s bond was revoked and he was remanded to jail. This was his last day of freedom. Jerry Sandusky walked stoically out of the courthouse in handcuffs. He demonstrated no emotion as he was led to a waiting police car. Some in the crowd taunted and insulted him.
This case is about more than Jerry Sandusky, a serial child sexual predator. This case is about Penn State University and their responsibility, and their potential future criminal and civil liability. The case is about Joe Paterno, the famous head coach who devoted his life to Penn State. He was forced to resign in disgrace. He died soon after of cancer. The university’s president was also forced out over the case.
The case is about families who were impacted by Jerry Sandusky. It is about the Sandusky family and the Paterno family. It is about the Penn State family. It is about the families in the affected communities.
The case is also about the victims, those who came forward and those who have not, who may still be suffering in silence. It is about their families too.
Sometimes we forget that crimes do not just have an impact on criminals and victims. Others suffer. Their families and extended families, friends and co-workers, and people who live in their communities are affected.
Sandusky was a pillar of the community, a local celebrity and a man of stature. People looked up to him. He was good looking, personable, charming, and dressed well. He was the perfect example of upper middle class success and achievement.
Sandusky lived a horrible dark secret life. He terrorized and sexually abused children. Children who trusted him. Children whom he carefully selected. Children who had behavioral, emotional, and social problems that made them vulnerable.
These children sought or were brought to Second Mile, the charity Sandusky established and ran. He used the charity to troll for victims then prey upon them.
On Thursday another victim came forward. His 32-year-old adopted son, Matt, who was originally scheduled to testify on behalf the defense, claimed through his attorney that Sandusky sexually abused him when he was a child.
What does a monster look like? How does a fiend act? Degenerates, perverts, monsters, and deviants look and act like Jerry Sandusky. They look and act like ordinary people, the people you would least expect.
They are like the people who live next door to you, people related to you, people you work with, people who teach or preach.
Evil is well versed in the art of social camouflage. Evil lurks in all walks of life.
Camouflage is not the art of hiding or disappearing into the background. Camouflage is the art of blending in. Predators like Jerry Sandusky are masters at blending in.
People were initially shocked to learn that Sandusky, of all people, was evil. But when details of the two-year investigation came out it sank in that evil is personified in ordinary and extraordinary people, people just like us.
Most people have a preconceived notion of the appearance of evil. Those notions come from the entertainment industry, comic strips like Chester the Molester, and other creative sources.
Then we have the reality of Charles Manson who looks and acts like evil personified.
It should be remembered that serial sex killer Ted Bundy was the all American college boy, the kid everyone liked. He was a master of camouflage.
There are all kinds of theories why people become sexual predators. It is believed some sexual predators started out as prey. We don’t know why Sandusky preyed upon children. We may never know. He never offered any defense. He pled not guilty. He proclaimed his innocence. The government had to prove him guilty.
From all appearances it was not a difficult job.
For all the harm to the victims, the families, Penn State, and the surrounding community, there is some good to come out of this. It shone a very bright spotlight on child sexual abuse and serial child sexual abusers.
It is hoped that after the dust settles, the media move on to other things, and life returns to normal, that spotlight keeps shining. Sandusky is not just one aberration that just happened to pop up. Sandusky is not unique.
Sandusky is one of many. Monsters walk among us and prey on our children. The story of Jerry Sandusky should be a cautionary tale and education for all of us.
It is hoped because of Sandusky there will be more awareness of child sexual abuse and the serial abusers. It is also hoped that victims will come forward. The victims should not have to be courageous or fearless. They just have to know they will be believed and that there is justice in the world.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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