BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky, maintaining his innocence, was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison — effectively a life sentence — in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno’s downfall.
A defiant Sandusky gave a rambling statement in which he denied the allegations and talked about his life in prison and the pain of being away from his family.
“I’ve forgiven, I’ve been forgiven. I’ve comforted others, I’ve been comforted. I’ve been kissed by dogs, I’ve been bit by dogs,” he said. “I’ve conformed, I’ve also been different. I’ve been me. I’ve been loved, I’ve been hated.”
Three victims spoke, often fighting back tears. One looked Sandusky in the eyes at times. Two of the men exchanged a long embrace after court was adjourned.
The 68-year-old former Penn State assistant coach was found guilty in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, convicted of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Witnesses said Sandusky used the charitable organization he founded for troubled children as his personal hunting ground to find and groom boys to become his victims.
Judge John Cleland handed down a 30- to 60-year term. He called Sandusky dangerous, saying he betrayed children and abused their trust.
Sandusky has consistently maintained his innocence and plans to appeal. One element of the appeal is expected to be a claim that the defense did not have time to adequately prepare for trial.
Sandusky said he knows in his heart that he did not do what he called “disgusting acts,” repeating a comment he made in a three-minute monologue that aired Monday night by Penn State Com Radio. In the radio recording, Sandusky described himself as the victim of a coordinated conspiracy among Penn State, investigators, civil attorneys, the media and others.
His statement in court lasted 15 minutes and his voice cracked as he spoke of missing his loved ones.
“I speak today with hope in my heart for a brighter day, not knowing if that day will come,” Sandusky said. “Many moments have been spent looking for a purpose. Maybe it will help others, some vulnerable children who might have been abused, might not be, as a result of the publicity.”