LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison today. The news, if you'll notice, is hardly the big splash that followed after the NCAA pounded Penn State University and its athletic program with major sanctions several months ago.
There's a tendency among all of us, myself included, to look more at the bigger picture. To be more disgusted at those who failed to stop these tragic crimes or those who enabled them than we are at the one who actually perpetrated them.
That's probably natural. None of us can identify with a child rapist. We can all identify with the bystanders, believing we'd have acted differently, hoping we'd have jumped into the madness to try to stop it. Penn State football, or the university, has more relevance in our lives than a single, sick individual.
But more than any other set of penalties from any other sanctioning body, today's 30- to 60-year sentence is the ultimate arbiter of justice, and the one that puts the focus where it should at least squarely rest for all of us for a time: On the criminal who did this, and the victims who endured his crimes. Too often today I feel as if I've read about the impact this will have on Penn State and its leadership.
With civil cases pending and one victim even due out with a book later this month, the story certainly isn't complete. But an important part of it is.
For 15 minutes before the sentence was handed down, Sandusky stood up and denied the charges of which he'd been convicted. He read letters he said were from young boys who praised him and the effect he'd had on their lives. He said that he never did "these alleged disgusting acts" and portrayed a conspiracy against him. Worst of all, he turned the crimes back on the victims and their families. "Evaluate the accusers and their families," he said in a statement released last night. "Realize they didn't come out of isolation. The accusers were products of many more people and experiences than me. Look at their confidants and their honesty. Think about how easy it was for them to turn on me given the information, attention and potential perks."
Yes, there were real and serious failures all the way up and down the line at Penn State. But ultimately, the reason these 10 boys and perhaps others were raped is because this man was more treacherous than anyone could imagine. Anyone, that is, except those boys, and a few who came to realize the truth but weren't strong enough to act on it. And lest there be any confusion, despite his assertions of innocence, no one should turn way from that truth now.
Sandusky wasn't the only one who spoke in court today. One victim got up and, according to the Los Angeles Times, told Sandusky to "stop coming up with excuses. . . . . I've been left with deep, painful wounds that you caused and had been buried in the garden of my heart for many years."
The Times said another man who was 13 when the coach took him into a Penn State shower and forced him to touch him said, "I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory. Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them."
Judge John Cleland, too, had his say. It was his job to express the outrage that society has for Sandusky's actions. He was up to the job. He called Sandusky the most dangerous type of child sexual predator, one who used his position of trust against the young people who trusted him. He also, according to courtroom accounts, told Sandusky:
"The crime is also your assault to their psyches and their souls. It is the remarkable ability to conceal that makes these crimes so heinous."
Then, turning to the victims, he said, "The fact that you were assaulted is no cause for embarrassment or for shame. His conduct was no fault of your own. It is for your courage and not for your assault that you will be remembered and on which you must focus to become whole and healed."
He won't get the kind of attention that NCAA president Mark Emmert got after announcing the Penn State sanctions. But he should.
All indications are that, in the aftermath of this terrible series of crimes and their all-too slow revelation, awareness of such potential dangers to children is greater than it ever has been. Organizations are reporting a steep increase in the reporting of past abuse.
Jerry Sandusky stood in court, his red prison clothing a stark contrast to the dark blue and white of Penn State he'd wrapped himself in for decades to accomplish and perpetuate his abuses.
If nothing else, this day one last time reminds us to look upon the felon.
Underneath the colors and pageantry and the fame that football and other sports provide, eventually, for good and occasionally for bad, there's a person underneath. The world is about more than team loyalty, colors, pageantry and allegiances. And these crimes are about more than what happens to any athletic program or coach's legacy.
Whatever role sports played in this affair -- and they did play a dishonorable role, for which future vigilance is the most important penance -- the sentence today was pronounced on the ultimate culprit and source of the crimes.
And it's worth stopping on the occasion of the sentencing, if only for a minute, to remember that evil is out there, in many different fields and colors and places, before jumping back into the games.
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