BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — A school district guidance counselor initially didn’t believe the abuse claims brought by one of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged victims because the former Penn State assistant football coach was considered to have “a heart of gold,” the accuser told jurors Tuesday.
The teen, labeled Victim No. 1 by a grand jury, tearfully recounted for jurors in Sandusky’s trial repeated instances of abuse, which he said included kissing, fondling and oral sex during sleepovers at the coach’s home.
A social worker who spoke to Sandusky about the boy’s claims testified that the coach denied having sexual contact with the boy but did acknowledge lying on top of him and blowing “raspberries” on the boy’s stomach. The social worker, Jessica Dershem, also said Sandusky told her he couldn’t recall whether he had ever touched the boy below his waistline.
Sandusky is on trial on 52 criminal counts related to the alleged assaults of 10 boys during a 15-year period. Authorities alleged Sandusky abused boys at his home and inside the football team’s on-campus facilities among other places.
The charges against him—and two university officials accused of perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse—touched off a massive scandal that led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and the departure of the university president. Paterno died in January of lung cancer, just over two months after his ouster.
Now 18, the accuser known as Victim 1 recounted an early encounter that escalated to oral sex.
“I spaced,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do with all the thoughts running through my head, I just kind of blacked out and didn’t want it to happen. I froze.”
As he choked back tears, the sobbing teen recounted another time Sandusky forced him to perform oral sex, after saying it was his “turn.”
“I don’t know how to explain it. I froze, like any other time,” he said. “My mind is telling me to move but I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t move.”
The witness said he stayed quiet about the abuse, in part because his mother thought Sandusky was a positive influence in his life, but he began trying to distance himself from Sandusky.
At one point Sandusky became angry with him because they’d drifted apart and the teen became involved with his local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, the teen said.
“I got extremely, extremely scared,” he said, recounting how it escalated into an argument between Sandusky and his mother.
Eventually the teen asked his mother if there was a website used to track sex offenders because he wanted to see if Sandusky was on it. That ultimately led to a meeting with the guidance counselor, where he reported being abused.
At first, the counselor didn’t believe him and questioned the wisdom of going to authorities, the witness said.
“They said we needed to think about it and he has a heart of gold and he wouldn’t do something like that. So they didn’t believe me,” he said.
School officials referred the case to the county’s child-welfare agency.
Dershem, a Clinton County Children & Youth Services caseworker, said the teen was initially uncomfortable talking to her but soon began to open up about his encounters with Sandusky.
She told the jury she had enough evidence by the end of her second meeting with the boy to determine that he had been abused by Sandusky.
He denied sexually assaulting the teen, saying he “he viewed (the boy) as an extended family member, kind of like a son,” Dershem said.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Joe Amendola asked the teen whether he had financial motives for bringing his accusations.
The teen denied that. “All I know is I’m here to tell the truth about what happened to me, just like everybody else,” he said.
Amendola pressed the accuser about his initial statements to a counselor and later the grand jury that were less detailed than later testimony.
The teen, who graduated from high school last week, responded that it was an embarrassing subject to talk about.
“I don’t believe anybody would want to talk about it,” he said.
The teen became upset as Amendola continued to ask about inconsistencies in his statements.
“It’s hard enough for me to tell these folks of the jury what happened, let alone the size of a room,” he said. “You’re asking the same questions over and over again. I’m going to give you the same answers.”
Sandusky didn’t visibly react to the teen’s account and looked straight ahead during his testimony.
Earlier in the morning, Sandusky entered the courthouse via a privacy tent in the back as opposed to Monday, where he strolled across the parking lot.
Another of Sandusky’s alleged victims testified Monday, the trial’s opening day, telling jurors that the coach sent him “creepy love letters.” The man said he began showering with Sandusky in 1997 and what started out as “soap battles” quickly escalated to sexual abuse, including oral sex.
Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III has described Sandusky as a “serial predator” who methodically used his youth charity, The Second Mile, to zero in on fatherless children or those with unstable home lives, buy them gifts and take advantage of them sexually.
Amendola has countered that the case is flimsy and that some of the accusers apparently intend to sue and have a financial stake in the case.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)