(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) — Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison for the sexual abuse of 10 children after a Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in jail.
“I’m not going to sentence you to centuries,” Judge John Cleland said at the sentencing hearing. “It makes no sense for a 68-year-old man. This sentence will put you in prison for the rest of your life.”
Sandusky, 68, would be 98 at his earliest possible release date.
Cleland also determined that Sandusky would be classified as a sexually violent predator, mandating that he register as a sex offender if he is ever released from prison.
“The ultimate tragedy of this situation is that… you have continued to conceal the very vices that have led to your downfall,” Cleland said before handing down the sentence. “In my view that makes you dangerous. You abused the trust of those who trusted you. These are not crimes against strangers, they are much worse.”
“The crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but your assault to the safety and well-being of the community in which we all live,” the judge added.
The sentence was handed down by Cleland in Bellefonte, Pa. after tearful testimony from both Sandusky and his victims.
Sandusky’s victims recounted the horror inflicted on them by the former Penn State football defensive coordinator. Speakers included one victim’s mother, who said her son had twice attempted suicide because of the abuse.
“For four years, I believed you were helping my son but instead you were molesting him,” the mother of Victim 9 wrote in a statement. “He was losing weight, couldn’t sleep. I blame myself and still do. I have had to endure two attempts from my son on his own life, all because of you and what you did to my son.”
“Jerry Sandusky lured me into a Penn State sauna and then a shower and then forcibly had me touch him,” said the man identified as Victim 5. “I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body. I continue to be haunted by the incident. [I have] anxiety, PTSD, nightmares, and embarrassment and guilt.”
The statements came just ahead of Sandusky’s own tearful statement to the court, in which he denied that he ever engaged in “disgusting acts.” He also described his time in jail, staring at cement walls, imagining the fun times he spent with the children of his charity — the Second Mile — through which he met all of his victims.
“A chill goes up my spine and my eyes fill up again. It doesn’t matter what you look at, it’s what you see. When I look at those walls again, I see light, visits from family and friends,” Sandusky said on the stand, clad in a red jumpsuit and looking noticeably thinner and more gaunt than during his trial. “I see me throwing hundreds of kids in the air, water balloon battles, a dog licking childrens’ faces.”
Sandusky said in his statement that he has spent his time in jail meditating, writing, exercising and reading books about persecution and struggle. He said he has faced “outbursts by troubled inmates” and “special inmates who have smiled at me.”
“Somehow, someway, something good will come out of this. These are people I cared about, still do. I used to think of ways to praise them, to help them have fun,” he said.
“To my loved ones I want to say, the most difficult part is the pain of separation. Some of the labeling hurts but they don’t compare to the pain of their absence,” Sandusky added.
Sandusky’s victims said they were outraged at Sandusky’s continued claims of innocence.
“You can chose to be in denial about everything you have done, [but] you are only fooling yourself,” said the man identified as Victim 6. “It is time to stop coming up with excuses for your behavior. If you admit your guilt to God, he will forgive you. If you don’t, you won’t be able to receive forgiveness.”
“You took something from him that can never be replaced,” the statement from Victim 9’s mother read. “Sorry will never be enough. There is no punishment sufficient for you. When you admit your wrongdoing, maybe, maybe you will be forgiven.”
In a statement released after the sentencing, Penn State President Rodney Erickson declared, “Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse. While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire