The young men who testified that Jerry Sandusky sexually abused them finally will have the chance this week to say exactly how the abuse by the man they trusted has affected them.
They may look Sandusky in the eye. They may speak out in anger. They may be somber. Some may not want anything to do with the moment, instead choosing to keep their feelings private.
That opportunity, in open court face to face with their abuser, is called a victim impact statement and will come during Sandusky’s sentencing hearing that starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
It is just one part of the sentencing hearing, which is when a defendant receives his or her punishment from the judge.
In Sandusky’s case, he was convicted in June of 45 counts of abusing the young boys he met through The Second Mile, the charity he started. Given the number of counts, the 68-year-old Sandusky is facing the rest of his life in a state prison.
Sandusky was convicted of eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, which are first-degree felonies that alone carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years behind bars. He was also convicted of multiple counts of indecent assault, corruption of minors, child endangerment and unlawful contact with minors.
The jury found that some of the offenses, like corruption of minors, were ongoing instead if a one-time occurrence. The ongoing nature, legally called a course of conduct, provides for a harsher punishment.
The fines associated with the counts could be substantial, too.
Prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan likely will ask Senior Judge John Cleland to make as many of the counts run consecutive to one another. McGettigan also likely will ask for the judge to hand down the maximum sentence for each count.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola has said he would ask the judge to run some of the counts concurrent to one another, although he acknowledged that might be futile.
“I anticipate Jerry will make a statement at his sentencing hearing on Tuesday in which he maintains his innocence,” Amendola said. “He will not ask for leniency although I will ask the (c)ourt to impose concurrent sentences in the mitigated range of the sentencing guidelines.”
But before any of the attorneys make their passionate pleadings for or against sending Sandusky away forever, there will be a separate hearing to have the judge declare the former coach a sexually violent predator.
Sandusky underwent an assessment from the state’s Sexual Offender Assessment Board because he was convicted of at least one sexual crime according to the provisions of Pennsylvania’s version of Megan’s Law.
The prosecution will ask Cleland to have Sandusky declared a sexually violent predator, which would mean he would have to register as a sex offender for the rest if his life if he ever gets out if prison. That means notifying state police of his address, employer information and any changes if he would move or change jobs.
Sandusky would qualify as someone required to register for life because he was convicted of more than one of the offenses under the Megan’s Law statute.
Sandusky also will be given the chance to address the court, and Amendola has said before that his client was weighing that option. Amendola said Sandusky, who has maintained his innocence, has been writing his version of the events. That can be provided to the judge on paper, too, instead of vocalized, for the judge’s consideration of his punishment.
But Sandusky saying he maintains his innocence could backfire.
Oftentimes, judges take into account how remorseful someone is when determining the person’s punishment.
The sentencing may be the first time Cleland says anything about the case, which attracted national attention because the fallout tarnished the reputation of Penn State and senior officials such as former head coach Joe Paterno and former President Graham Spanier.
Cleland, who was even-tempered during the trial, could reflect on how he came up with the sentence he did or he could admonish Sandusky.
Amendola has made it known he plans to appeal the conviction and sentence, but he has to wait until after sentencing. He was quick to say that during a news conference that followed the verdict the night of June 22.
Amendola said the defense will have 10 days after the sentencing to file post-sentence motions. Cleland will have up to four months to decide on those motions. If he denies Sandusky’s post-sentence motions, the defense would have 30 days to file an appeal in the state Superior Court, he said.
Amendola has said he and his co-counsel, Karl Rominger, did not have enough time to prepare for trial, which came eight months after Sandusky was indicted.
The recently released transcripts even show they wanted out of the case the morning that jury selection started. The judge denied the request.
Amendola has said he may have to be a witness during the appeal process, so he could not represent Sandusky through that process.
The defense has 10 days to file post-sentence motions to the trial judge and 30 days for appeals to the state’s Superior Court.
County court officials have set aside 85 seats for the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open for the media at 7:45 a.m., and the public will be admitted 30 minutes later. People in the public seating are not allowed to bring cellphones, laptops or other electronic devices into the courthouse.
The sentencing will attract another large contingent of out-of-town media, which is expected to make parking downtown scarce on Tuesday.