In the world of courtroom tales on TV and in the movies, when the guilty verdict comes in it usually seems like the story is over. The bad guy is going to jail for a very long time, the lawyers shake hands, and the victims seem to have some catharsis. Maybe we get a scene on the courthouse steps or something else along the lines of closure. Viewers accept the ending and we move on to next week or the next film we are going to see; unfortunately, the Jerry Sandusky (former assistant coach to Joe Paterno at Penn State) trial occurs in the real world, and while his guilty verdict gives some consolation to the victims and their families, the story is far from over.
Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts against him. Many of these charges carry minimum sentences, so it seems a given that Sandusky is going away for the rest of his life. Knowing this cannot ease the pain and years of trauma inflicted on the victims, all young boys at the time who accused the retired coach of sexual abuse that came to light in graphic detail during the trial.
Lead defense attorney Joe Amendola indicated that there will be appeals and, of course, this is the real world part I mentioned before. Yes, Sandusky’s bail was revoked and he was taken away in handcuffs, but the agony will continue in a process that could go on for years.
Eight of Sandusky’s accusers testified at the trial, giving accounts of the self-appointed “Tickle Monster’s” violations which included massages and anal and oral sex. The defense weakly tried to portray the victims as financially motivated and that the police rushed the case and coached the victims to give the damning accounts.
Whatever shadows of doubt the defense wanted to build up in the minds of the jurors had to have been shattered by former graduate assistant Mike McQueary’s testimony about actually observing Sandusky raping an approximately 10 year old boy in the shower. McQueary’s original account is credited with causing legendary coach Joe Paterno to be fired and brought this case into the public eye.
We can hope that this case becomes something that will change business as usual in colleges, universities, and other schools. A guy like Sandusky was put in a position of privilege and power, and it is obvious that there were no checks and balances for him. If McQueary hadn’t stumbled upon that horrific scene, Sandusky might still be destroying the lives of young boys.
The victims and their families must feel relief, but there is the stark realization that none of this makes reality go away. This is not TV or film happy ending stuff by a long shot. They will suffer the effects of this abuse no doubt for the rest of their lives, even as Sandusky rots in jail. For them there is no Hollywood ending because the story goes on and on, so this is far from over because in truth something like this is never over. Never.
Photo Credit: AP