BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- “I’m not going to sentence you to centuries in prison,” Judge John Cleland said, as Jerry Sandusky stood before him. Sandusky wore the red uniform of a prisoner in the Centre County system. He looked thinner than he had, grayer, after three months in jail.
After being convicted on 45 counts of sexual crimes against children, Sandusky could have been sentenced by Cleland to more than 400 years in jail. But the judge chose not to. He said, “It’s only a big number,” and that he preferred something more understandable, more real, less abstract, something that the 68-year-old former Penn State football coach would comprehend completely.
Cleland said he wanted a number that said, effectively and clearly, “for the rest of your life.”
With that, Cleland sentenced Sandusky to a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of 60 years. After the prosecutor, defense attorney and several victims spoke, Sandusky got up and continued to deny everything, using some of the same phrases he used in a jailhouse radio interview on Monday.
“I didn’t do these alleged disgusting acts,” he told the court.
Of that radio interview, in which Sandusky blamed the victims and said there was a conspiracy to convict him that included the media and the justice system, the judge seemed incredulous: “All I can say is, like all conspiracy theories, it flows from the undeniable to the unbelievable.”
In the end, Cleland said, “The tragedy of this crime is that it is a story of betrayal.” He also said, “It is this remarkable ability to deceive that makes these crimes so heinous.”
The judge also addressed the victims directly. Most of the eight identified victims were in court, along with family and friends, and three of them spoke in court.
Cleland told them, “The fact that you were assaulted is no cause for embarrassment or for shame. As children you were the victims of a pedophile...His conduct was no fault of your own. As adults, you have now come forward to hold him accountable. It is for your courage and not for your assault that you will be remembered...”
Then he put Jerry Sandusky away forever.
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