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Sandusky trial's first day sets tone: Mentor vs. abuser

| Monday, June 11, 2012, 8:52 a.m.
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte on June 11, 2012, for opening statements in his trial on 52 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a period of 15 years.
Associated Press
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte on June 11, 2012, for opening statements in his trial on 52 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a period of 15 years. Associated Press

BELLEFONTE -- He slept at Jerry Sandusky's home, was showered with gifts, even got to attend bowl games with the former Penn State football coach and his wife.

But all the while, a northern Pennsylvania boy who would become the young man known in court documents as "Victim 4" was hiding a terrible secret: The soap battles and wrestling that Sandusky initiated with him in a coaches' shower shortly after they met escalated to sex acts, the man, 28, testified on Monday.

The state's highly anticipated first witness in the trial and scandal that rocked Penn State spent most of the afternoon on the stand, producing a signed contract between Sandusky and the then-teenager, as well as love letters written to the boy and signed by the renowned coach.

Sandusky, 68, is on trial on 52 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a span of 15 years, many times inside campus athletic buildings. Prosecutors say he used The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth, to meet the children.

Sandusky maintains his innocence, and defense attorney Joe Amendola told jurors they should question the motives of his accusers.

"What Jerry would do was out of his love and his desire to see these kids succeed," Amendola said during opening statements to the Centre County jury of seven women and five men.

Even though Judge John M. Cleland ordered Sandusky's accusers to testify using their own names, prosecutors went to great lengths to shield them from the public eye, having a tunnel built for them to use as they come and go from the courthouse during the trial, which is expected to last about three weeks. The Tribune-Review does not identify accusers in sex assault cases.

Asked if he ever told anyone of his relationship with Sandusky, Victim 4, a slender man with neatly trimmed brown hair, answered curtly and with little emotion: "No."

Asked if he ever said anything to Sandusky, he said "no."

"I was too scared. ... Other than that, things were nice, and I didn't want to lose that," he said.

The man described in detail how he slowly was absorbed into the coach's life and later attempted to extricate himself from it, even as Sandusky pressed him to continue the relationship -- at one point giving him money to buy marijuana and letting him smoke it in his car.

The man said he was 13 when he met Sandusky in 1997 and that their first inappropriate contact was at a picnic when Sandusky was tossing children into a lake and brushed the boy's genitals twice. Sandusky began showering with the boy and initiating "soap battles," which led to more than 50 sexual incidents over the next five years, the man testified.

Sandusky's wife, Dottie, walked in on Sandusky and the boy together in a hotel room bathroom when they traveled to the Alamo Bowl at one point, the man testified, and she quickly walked out. Dottie Sandusky and several of Jerry Sandusky's adult children attended the trial's opening. Dottie Sandusky and Matt Sandusky, the couple's adult son, are expected to testify during the trial and were asked to leave the courtroom as witnesses were being sequestered.

The man produced a signed "contract." He said Sandusky pressed him into signing three separate contracts, ostensibly under the auspices of The Second Mile, in which he agreed to do his school work, participate in sports and meet with Sandusky. In return, he was to receive small financial rewards, including up to $1,000 for college.

The accuser said he signed the contracts only to get Sandusky to leave him alone.

Mark McCann, then-program director of The Second Mile, testified that the contracts were not part of any of the charity's programs.

Prosecutors presented a series of letters Sandusky penned to the young man, telling him how much he meant to the coach and encouraging him to do well. In one letter, Sandusky described himself as the "great pretender" and asked that the young man remember that his affection for him was not pretend.

When Sandusky called him at his grandmother's home, the teenager would ask his grandmother to tell the coach he wasn't home. When Sandusky would come to the home, the child would hide, he said.

Defense attorneys counter that the letters show evidence of histrionic personality disorder, a condition in which someone behaves in a dramatic fashion to get attention, rather than attempts by Sandusky to seduce boys.

Cleland has yet to rule on a motion by the defense seeking to introduce expert testimony that Sandusky suffers from the disorder.

Under questioning from Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan, the accuser insisted he did not want to become part of the investigation when he was first contacted.

"Did you go to the police?" McGettigan asked.

"No, they came and found me," he said.

Under questioning from Amendola, the man said he hired an attorney before police contacted him but hasn't filed a lawsuit.

Amendola told jurors that the accuser brought his girlfriend and newborn baby to see Sandusky and his wife at their home a few years ago in a visit that one witness will describe was "like he was bringing his family to meet his father." Amendola said Sandusky treated the boys he took in via his charity like his own sons.

McGettigan projected photos of Sandusky's accusers as children on a large screen and painted him as a serial pedophile who psychologically manipulated them and used them for sexual purposes.

The trial resumes Tuesday morning.

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