BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison — effectively a life sentence — in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno's downfall.
A defiant Sandusky gave a rambling statement in which he denied the allegations and talked about his life in prison and the pain of being away from his family.
Three victims spoke, often fighting back tears. One looked Sandusky in the eyes at times.
The 68-year-old former Penn State assistant coach was found guilty in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, convicted of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Witnesses said Sandusky used the charitable organization he founded for troubled children as his personal hunting ground to find and groom boys to become his victims.
His arrest 11 months ago, and the details that came out during his trial over the summer, transformed Sandusky's public image from a college coach who had been widely admired for his work with The Second Mile charity into that of a reviled pervert who preyed on the very youngsters who sought his help.
Eight of the boys he was found guilty of molesting testified at his trial, describing a range of abuse that included fondling, oral sex and anal intercourse. One of the prosecution's star witnesses, former graduate assistant Mike McQueary, testified that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a locker room shower.
Among the three who spoke Tuesday, a young man who said he was 11 when Sandusky groped him in a shower in 1998. He said Sandusky is in denial and should "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," he said.
Another man said he was 13 when, in 2001, Sandusky lured him into a Penn State sauna and then a shower and then forced him to touch the ex-coach.
"I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory," he said. "Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them."
Sandusky has consistently maintained his innocence and plans to appeal. One element of the appeal is expected to be a claim that the defense did not have time to adequately prepare for trial. Sandusky was charged in November, following a lengthy investigation.
In a three-minute monologue aired Monday night by Penn State Com Radio that used some of the same language as his courtroom statement, Sandusky said he knows in his heart that he did not do what he called "these alleged disgusting acts" and described himself as the victim of a coordinated conspiracy among Penn State, investigators, civil attorneys, the media and others.
His statement in court lasted 15 minutes and his voice cracked as he spoke of missing his loved ones.
"I speak today with hope in my heart for a brighter day, not knowing if that day will come," Sandusky said. "Many moments have been spent looking for a purpose. Maybe it will help others, some vulnerable children who might have been abused, might not be, as a result of the publicity."
His statement included numerous sports references: He said he once told his wife "we're definitely in the fourth quarter" and he referenced the movie "Seabiscuit."
He also spoke of instances in which he said he helped children.
"I've forgiven, I've been forgiven. I've comforted others, I've been comforted. I've been kissed by dogs, I've been bit by dogs," he said. "I've conformed, I've also been different. I've been me. I've been loved, I've been hated."
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