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The patter of a sociopath

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

BELLEFONTE

Once again, this tiny community was overrun by the media horde. It was, in almost all likelihood, the last time the Centre County Courthouse will be the focus of international news coverage.

By dusk on Monday night, the courthouse was surrounded. About 30 satellite trucks with dishes arched toward the sky cast shadows across the courtyard. At the crack of dawn on a brisk fall morning, TV newscasters were lined up around the sidewalk, already starting their stand-up interviews for early morning broadcasts.

The focus of all this attention, Jerry Sandusky, showed up handcuffed Tuesday morning dressed in a red prison uniform with CENTRE COUNTY stamped on the back. As he entered the courthouse, he revealed a tight-lipped grimace without that sick smirk that has been shown in so many photos. There were 210 reporters, sports writers, producers and other assorted journalists on hand for the big event.

Reporters were not allowed to tweet or leave the courtroom during the hearing. Some news organizations thumbed their noses at the court's “decorum order,” running with news of the 30-to-60-year sentence before the hearing ended, making those of us who followed it look like chumps.

Just the night before, an audio statement by Sandusky was released, blaming the victims, taking no responsibility for his crimes and suggesting there was a conspiracy. Sandusky, 68, a former Penn State defensive coach, repeated most of it in the courtroom before Judge John Cleland and ad-libbed a bit.

Despite protesting his innocence, Sandusky didn't fight the designation of being a “sexually violent predator,” which requires him to register if he's ever released. The Megan's Law hearing was over in the blink of an eye since everyone in the courtroom knew there's no way the commonwealth would ever release Sandusky before he dies.

He portrayed himself as a victim, sitting alone in his little cell and reading books “dealing with the hardship and persecution” of others (he didn't name them).

It was the patter of a sociopath, sounding almost believable, and certainly manipulative.

But a jury in June found him guilty of molesting 10 young boys. Some of them, as grown men, testified at the hearing about the struggles they still face because of Sandusky's abuse.

It's well established that Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola is a media hound. Lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan took a shot in response to Amendola's complaints of not having enough time to prepare his case. Amendola should have spent less time doing interviews and more of it on the case, McGettigan jabbed.

But “Hollywood” Joe (sans trademark shades) is madly in love with the cameras. With lenses shoved in his face, he moved from scrum to scrum for individual interviews and follow-ups, reveling in the coverage.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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