NEW YORK — Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky maintains he never sexually abused children and portrays himself in a New York Times interview as a father-like figure to the kids in his life.
The Times reported Saturday that Sandusky also insisted he never spoke with Joe Paterno about any allegations of misconduct.
"They've taken everything that I ever did for any young person and twisted it to say that my motives were sexual or whatever," Sandusky said. "I had kid after kid after kid who might say I was a father figure. And they just twisted that all."
Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of molesting eight boys over 15 years and is free on bail while awaiting a preliminary hearing Dec. 13. A grand jury investigating Sandusky said in a report that some of the assaults occurred in the Penn State football showers, including a 2002 allegation in which a graduate assistant testified he saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy.
University trustees fired Paterno – major college football's winningest coach – on Nov. 9, four days after charges were filed against Sandusky, amid mounting criticism that school leaders should have done more when allegations came to their attention.
During a lengthy interview with The Times at his lawyer's home, Sandusky painted a picture of chaotic but friendly scenes involving children he described as extended family at his State College, Pa., home. There were sleepovers, wrestling matches, and children playing with dogs at the house after football games.
The descriptions sharply contrast with the shocking allegations involving children outlined in the grand jury report, including oral and anal sex. One accusation, from 2000, describes a janitor walking into the assistant coaches' shower room and seeing Sandusky holding a boy "up against the wall and licking on him."
Three attorneys representing one of the alleged victims released a statement Saturday, with attorney Andrew Shubin calling Sandusky's comments "an entirely unconvincing denial and a series of bizarre explanations."
Sandusky told the newspaper he and Paterno never spoke about the alleged 2002 incident or a 1998 child molestation complaint investigated by Penn State campus police.
"I never talked to him about either one," Sandusky said. "That's all I can say. I mean, I don't know." He worked for Paterno for nearly 30 years.
Messages left Saturday by The Associated Press seeking comment from representatives for Paterno were not immediately returned.
Paterno testified before the grand jury that the graduate assistant told him in 2002 about the assault he had witnessed, and that he relayed the report to his superior, athletic director Tim Curley.
The graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, later met with Curley and Gary Schultz, a university vice president who oversaw campus police. But authorities said the allegation was not passed on to police or prosecutors.
Curley and Schultz are charged with failing to report the 2002 allegation and lying to the grand jury. Curley is on administrative leave, while Schultz has stepped down. Lawyers for both men have said their clients are innocent.
Prosecutors have said Paterno is not a target of the investigation.
Paterno's son, Scott Paterno, told the AP last month the first and only incident reported about Sandusky to Paterno was in 2002. Paterno has said in a statement that specific actions alleged to have occurred in the grand jury report were not relayed to him
Still, the state's top cop has criticized the way school leaders handled allegations and said Paterno and other officials had a moral responsibility to do more.
The 84-year-old Paterno initially announced his retirement effective at the end of the season, saying that the scandal was "one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." The trustees fired him anyway, about 12 hours later.
Sandusky said that prosecutors have misconstrued his work with children. He described a family and work life that "could often be chaotic, even odd, one that lacked some classic boundaries between adults and children," the Times reported.
"It was, you know, almost an extended family," Mr. Sandusky said of his household's relationship with children from the charity he founded, The Second Mile. He characterized his experiences with children was close with as "precious times," and said the physical aspect of the relationships "just happened that way."
But Saturday's statement from one accuser's attorneys called such comments a "delusional rationalization."
"Pedophiles often horribly mischaracterize the abuse they perpetrate as something that their victims sought or benefited from," said Justine Andronici, who represents the same accuser as Shubin.
A third attorney, David Marshall, added that Sandusky's interview "goes a long way toward corroborating the victims' accounts" because Sandusky acknowledges "he `wrestled' and showered alone with boys, gave them gifts and money, and travelled with them."
Allegations involving two victims occurred in Sandusky's home, according to the grand jury report.
"Victim One testified that Sandusky had a practice of coming into the basement room after he told Victim One that it was time to go to bed," the grand jury report said. "Victim One testified that Sandusky would `crack his back,'" which was described in the report as Sandusky getting on to the bed and "rolling under the boy."
Sandusky is accused of mining the ranks of Second Mile to find underprivileged boys to abuse, which he says is false. He said that the charity never restricted his access to children until he became the subject of a criminal investigation in 2008.
He acknowledged that he regularly gave money to the disadvantaged boys at his charity, opened bank accounts for them and gave them gifts that had been donated to the charity.
"I tried to reward them sometimes with a little money in hand, just so that they could see something," he said. "But more often than not, I tried to set up, maybe get them to save the money, and I put it directly into a savings account established for them."
The paper said he grew most animated when talking about his relationships with children and most disconsolate when he spoke of Paterno and Penn State, and the upheaval caused by his indictment.
"I don't think it was fair," he is quoted as saying.
During the interview, Sandusky said his relationships and activities with Second Mile children caused some strain with Paterno. He told the paper he worried that having some children with him at hotels before games or on the sideline during games could have been regarded as a distraction by Paterno.