(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) — What began as soap battles in a Penn State locker room advanced over a period of several years to more aggressive sexual attacks that included insistent demands for oral sex from former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, a 28-year-old man testified today.
The witness, who ABC News is identifying only as Victim 4, told the jury on the first day of the trial that he had to resort to hiding in his bedroom closet to avoid Sandusky trying to prey on him at his home.
“I’d come home from school and look out the window and he’ d be there and I’d grab the phone and hide in the closet,” the man, who was 13 when the alleged abuse began, testified.
He said the alleged assaults became as frequent as two to three times a week and lasted for about three years.
The man’s testimony was the first of what is expected to be a series of wrenching and sexually graphic witnesses detailing what they claim that Sandusky, now 68, did to them when they were young boys.
Sandusky is charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a period of 15 years. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
Victim 4 riveted the courtroom with his stories of how he was allegedly coerced into sex with Sandusky through brute strength, lavish presents and his access to the Penn State football team. Sandusky even allegedly suggested that Victim 4 could someday play for the nationally ranked team, even though he only weighed 90 pounds at the time.
His testimony also described how Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, once walked in on them during sex.
The witness told the court that Sandusky began abusing him after workouts at Penn State by throwing handfuls of soap and “play fighting” in the showers. The horseplay allegedly progressed into Sandusky touching the boy and rubbing up against the boy’s hands, until both had touched the other’s penis.
As the shower incidents became more frequent, the man claimed that Sandusky began maneuvering him to the floor and putting his genitals near the boy’s face, and vice versa. He also tried to have oral sex and anal sex with the boy, the man claimed.
In car rides, Sandusky “would put his hand on my leg, basically like I was his girlfriend…. It freaked me out extremely bad. I would brush it off,” he testified, but added “it happened every time” they were in a car.
Victim 4 said he never told anyone because he feared losing the benefits of the relationship.
“This is something good that happened to me. I didn’t have a dad around, I didn’t have a father figure. This is something good. I’m in high school at this point, people are jealous, other kids are jealous, and they want to tease you. They’re saying things like you’re being molested by Jerry, you’re butt buddies. It really is happening but I’ve got to pretend like it’s not happening to everybody else. If I ever said anything, it would have been so much worse. I denied it forever,” he testified.
The trial opened with the prosecution displaying photos of eight of Sandusky’s 10 alleged victims, and Sandusky’s lawyer suggesting that Sandusky may take the stand in his own defense.
Defense attorney Joseph Amendola said today in an opening statement that Sandusky would tell the jury about how his own experiences growing up explained some of his alleged behavior.
“It was routine for people to get in the showers in Jerry’s culture. He’s going to tell you later, it was routine for individuals to take showers together,” Amendola said.
Sandusky’s defense team also filed a motion to allow evidence that he has histrionic personality disorder, a condition that would explain some of his behavior as well as letters he wrote to his alleged victims. The disorder, his lawyer claimed in a court document, will show that his actions were not attempts to “groom” young boys for sexual seduction, as the prosecution has claimed.
Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan earlier promised that eight of Sandusky’s accusers would take the stand to recall graphic details of the alleged abuse.
“I’m going to ask you to forgive me, because I’m going to ask (the alleged victims) to back years to when they were children, and I’m going to press them for those details,” McGettigan said. “I’ve asked them to forgive me for the graphic answers. But I have to ask and they have to answer to go back in time. ”
Amendola, who seemed to admit to the jury that the prosecution had a strong case, saying “the Commonwealth has overwhelming evidence” and “there are so many accusers.” He told the jury of seven women and five men that he would try and discredit the alleged victims and other witnesses in a bid to defend Sandusky.
“It is rare, it is absolutely totally unusual for an alleged victim to have an attorney beside them, representing them, and yet six and possibly more we have evidence to show that one of them had an attorney before they ever talked to attorney general in this case,” Amendola said.
“Evidence going to show that six of eight young men have civil litigation,” the lawyer said. He later added, “These young men have a financial interest.”
Sandusky, dressed in a gray suit jacket and khaki pants, sat hunched over at the defense table, flanked by his two defense attorneys and a legal assistant. The arrest of the former defensive coordinator last December sent shockwaves through the university, ending the careers of head coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier, and resulting in the arrest of two other school officials.
McGettigan began the trial by projecting the pictures of eight young boys whom Sandusky allegedly molested onto a screen in front of the courtroom. He said the alleged victims would testify, and the prosecution would provide supporting documents, photographs, and evidence to support their claims. They would also describe the investigation into Sandusky that led to the 52 counts charged against him.
The victim, “just wanted a father figure,” McGettigan said, “but the defendant would spoon with him, put his hand down his pants, touch his genitals.”
McGettigan also promised during opening statements to use Sandusky’s own media interviews against him in court, noting that the jury would hear Sandusky’s responses on NBC and in the New York Times to questions about his alleged crimes, prompting Amendola to confer with his paralegal.
The investigation began in 2008 when a high school student in Centre County, Pa., told his mother and school administrators that Sandusky had molested him, launching a widespread but secretive effort to interview dozens of boys Sandusky mentored through his charity, The Second Mile, as well as Penn State officials who may have seen or heard about inappropriate actions.
Charges of child sex abuse were brought against Sandusky on Nov. 4, 2011, igniting a firestorm of scandal around the prestigious football program that led to the dismissal of the university’s president and Paterno, and criminal charges against two school officials.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Z. Byron Wolf, CNN
Jackie Wattles and Amanda Barnett, CNN
Carole Mikita, KSL.com