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Jerry Sandusky trial opens with testimony from accuser

The unidentified man is the first of eight who are expected to testify that the former Penn State coach abused them.

June 11, 2012|Staff and wire reports
  • Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky walks into court on the first day of his trial on child sex abuse charges.
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky walks into court… (Patrick Smith, Getty Images )

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — — The first witness in Jerry Sandusky's trial testified Monday that the former Penn State University assistant football coach sexually abused him as a young teenager on campus and in hotels and later sent him "creepy love letters."

Identified in court papers as Victim 4, the witness said "soap battles" in the shower escalated into inappropriate touching and oral sex. Under cross-examination, he said he felt responsible for what happened to other boys because he didn't come forward earlier.

The man, now 28, was the first of eight people claiming to be victims who are expected to testify.

Photos: Who's who in Sandusky case

Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he has denied. His arrest and the fallout led to the departures of the university president and longtime football coach Joe Paterno.

During the prosecution's opening statements, the accusers' childhood photos loomed over Sandusky as Senior Deputy Atty. Gen. Joseph E. McGettigan III described the young men and the abuse they say they suffered.

"One is a father himself now. Two are recent high school graduates. One is a Penn State graduate. One serves his country in Afghanistan, in a war zone," McGettigan said. "Their experiences with the defendant are as varied as they are."

Defense attorney Joe Amendola signaled that Sandusky would testify and would say that, in his world, it was routine for people to shower together and that he never sought sexual gratification while doing so.

As the first witness testified, he said he joined Sandusky's charity for troubled youths, the Second Mile, at a guidance counselor's suggestion. At the time, the boy was living with his grandmother and having conflicts with his stepfather.

He met Sandusky when he was 12 or 13 during an overnight camp at Penn State, he said. Sandusky had visited the boy's roommate and later called to ask the witness to a family picnic.

They soon fell into a routine in which Sandusky would call the boy's grandmother's house to arrange an outing and then pick him up to play racquetball or basketball. Afterward, they would shower and Sandusky would initiate "soap battles," in which Sandusky threw soap from the wall dispensers, the witness testified.

"I thought it was a game, so I went along with it," he said. "That led to him getting a lot closer to me, bearhugging."

He said the soap battles turned into touching and then wrestling matches and, eventually, oral sex.

Asked under cross-examination why he didn't report what happened, he said, "I kind of looked at Jerry as a father figure because I didn't have anyone else, but he was nice to me other than the things that he did, and I didn't want to lose that."

He made clear that he wasn't enthusiastic about testifying.

"I wouldn't even be here right now if I thought that I was the only person," he said. "But now I find out this has been going on over and over and over again, so I feel responsible. Maybe this wouldn't have happened if I said something."

Each of Sandusky's accusers met him through the Second Mile.

Monday's witness testified that as he got older, he began to pull away, not answering the phone and hiding when Sandusky came to his house.

Then, he said, Sandusky sent him "creepy love letters" and offered him contracts, ostensibly through the Second Mile, to earn money for college by working out and playing sports with Sandusky.

One letter, shown briefly on a video screen in court, was handwritten on Penn State letterhead and signed "Jerry."

"I know that I have made my share of mistakes," the letter read. "However I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart."

In the defense's opening statement, Amendola tried to highlight weaknesses in the prosecution's case, including testimony by Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary.

According to a state grand jury report, McQueary said he saw Sandusky having anal sex with a boy in the locker room of Penn State's football training center. McQueary later testified at a preliminary hearing that he did not see penetration.

"We don't think Michael McQueary lied," Amendola said. "What we think is that he saw something and made assumptions."

In a court filing this year, prosecutors changed the date they say the sex occurred from March 2002 to February 2001.

Amendola also noted that at least six of Sandusky's accusers have attorneys representing them in threatened civil lawsuits.

Photos: Who's who in Sandusky case

"We believe the evidence will show at least one of these young men had an attorney before they ever talked to the attorney general in this case," Amendola said. "We believe these young men have financial incentives."

The Allentown Morning Call and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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