Victim No. 6: Violation and vindication
By Ann O’Neill, CNN
BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (CNN) – His heart pounded under his striped, maroon polo shirt as the one they call Alleged Victim No. 6 waited in a packed courtroom Friday night to hear the verdicts in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case.
He is 25 now, lean and broad shouldered with short brown hair and big dark eyes. For years, he struggled with the fact that Sandusky, a local football hero, crossed the line with him in a locker room shower in 1998.
No. 6 was the only one of the accusers, the so-called “Sandusky 8,” to come to court for the verdicts. He chewed gum with intensity, his jaws clenching and releasing as Sandusky, looking wan and bent in a brown sports jacket, lumbered into the courtroom shortly before 10 p.m.
The jurors took their seats, looking tired and sad. One woman appeared to be crying.
The young man’s mother locked fingers with him with one hand, placed the other over his forearm and her head on his shoulder. She started to cry. Soon, they would hear whether there would be justice.
Count One: Guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with Victim No. 1.
No. 6 smiled.
Count Two: Guilty again, of the same charge.
No. 6 nodded, and his smile grew broader.
Count Three: Guilty of indecent assault.
And so it went. Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 counts against him. They covered the gamut of child molestation — everything from oral and anal sex to corrupting the morals of 10 boys over 15 years.
As the guilty verdicts tolled, a spectrum of emotions crossed the young man’s face. He closed his eyes for a while, as if deep in prayer. He leaned forward when the jury foreman finally came to Counts 28, 29, 30 and 31, the ones that involved him.
“Not guilty,” the foreman said for the first count, indecent assault, and No. 6 blinked with surprise.
But then, it was nothing but “guilty, guilty, guilty” — of unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children.
His chest heaved, and No. 6 wiped tears from his eyes. His mother patted him on the shoulder. She looked at the jurors and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
And then, they both broke down and cried, clinging to each other as they have since May 3, 1993, the day Jerry Sandusky, then Penn State’s defensive coordinator, took him into the football team’s locker room showers and soaped him up.
“I don’t think anybody really won,” his mother said as Pennsylvania state troopers, prosecutors and agents with the state attorney general’s office filed by to offer congratulations.
“I thought I’d be happy,” she said, “but there’s no joy. We all lost.”
Lead prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan II leaned over, said something in her son’s ear and shook his hand. As if on cue, a loud cheer erupted in the square outside the courthouse. No. 6 glanced back, and then turned his head and smiled some more before collapsing into a sobbing group hug with his mother and sisters.
‘I just rolled with it’
On June 14, a Thursday, he finally got to tell his story to a jury:
When he was 11 years old, No. 6 was the ultimate Penn State football fan. He met Jerry Sandusky at the charity Sandusky founded for at-risk kids, The Second Mile. He was thrilled when Sandusky paid him a little attention, asked him to come work out.
Sandusky picked him up in his car. The coach chatted with his mother for a bit about Penn State football, and then he got into the car with him.
Suddenly, there was a hand on his leg. According to prosecutors, that was Sandusky’s opening gambit with the boys he molested. It was as if he was testing their tolerance for his touch.
“He reached over and put his hand next to my knee,” No. 6 said. “I remember feeling that it was a little odd.”
He pulled his leg away, but remembers, “I just rolled with it.” After all, it was Jerry Sandusky.
At the team’s locker room, he was allowed to try on the players’ uniforms, their shoulder pads and their helmets. He peeked inside Joe Paterno’s office and was given a pair of socks.
“I was thrilled with that,” he said.
They played “Polish bowling,” rolling a ball of sports tape on a hallway floor. Then, he recalled, Sandusky showed him some wrestling moves. He said it made him feel uncomfortable, but he didn’t protest.
“It was Jerry Sandusky,” and he didn’t want to make him mad, he said.
They worked out for 15, maybe 20 minutes, and No. 6 learned how to use the weight machines.
“I remember him saying. ‘It’s time to shower,’” No. 6 recalled, “and I wasn’t even sweating yet.” Again, he felt uncomfortable because only his parents had seen him naked.
Sandusky stepped under a shower, and turned on the one next to him, warming it up for the boy. He told jokes to loosen him up, calling himself “the Tickle Monster” and tickled him under the arms, and on the chest and abdomen.
The coach grabbed him from behind, in a bear hug, and said, “I’m going to squeeze your guts out.”
By now, he recalled, he was getting “pretty grossed out.”
He explained, “I remember seeing his chest hair right next to my face and thinking, ‘This is icky.’”
Sandusky soaped him up and lifted him under the showerhead.
No. 6 said his memory went blank after that. “I don’t even remember being put down,” he said. “I got home somehow, and everything else just blacked out.”
His mother saw his wet hair, and he told her he’d taken a shower. He went into his room and closed the door, he said. She followed him a few minutes later and “I told her bits and pieces. It really wasn’t a big deal to me.”
He added, “I didn’t want to get him in trouble. I still wanted to hang out with him and go to the games. He told me he had a computer and he would invite me over, and I could sit on his lap and play with the computer. And I still wanted to do that.”
He never did spend time alone with Sandusky.
His mother called the authorities, and Detective Ronald Schreffler investigated for the Penn State campus police. While he was being questioned, No. 6 recalled, “I felt I did something wrong. … I was a very small kid then.”
Schreffler and the boy’s mother set a trap. She confronted Sandusky and allowed authorities to record the conversation. She tried to make him promise not to take showers with young boys. He wouldn’t agree, and so she told him he couldn’t spend time alone with her son anymore.
According to testimony, Sandusky responded: “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”
Schreffler testified that he felt charges should be filed, but Roy Gricar, the Centre County district attorney at the time, disagreed. Gricar later disappeared, and he was declared legally dead last year.
No. 6 said he continued to occasionally see Sandusky over the years, but was never again alone with him. He sent Thanksgiving and Father’s Day cards. He had lunch on campus last year with Sandusky and his wife, Dottie.
In January 2011, the police came knocking again. By this time, he was studying at a Bible college in Colorado. He agreed to cooperate.
He thought about what happened so many years ago, things he had banished from his mind.
By this time, he said, his perception of what happened had changed.
“I saw it was inappropriate,” he said. “I feel violated.”
And now with a jury agreeing that what happened to him in the showers at Penn State was wrong, perhaps vindicated at last.