BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Former assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to 30 to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 young boys over a span of 15 years.
Sandusky, 68, once a celebrated figure in college sports, stood in a red jumpsuit when Judge John Cleland imposed the sentence. He had faced a maximum of four centuries behind bars without parole.
In his statement before Cleland announced the prison term, Sandusky insisted he was innocent.
"I didn’t do these alleged disgusting acts," he said, echoing a statement he made on radio yesterday. "I speak today with hope in my heart for a brighter day... this is the worst loss of my life."
During his long statement, he read a greeting card that he said he'd recently received from someone he inspired as a child. By the end of his remarks, Sandusky was in tears.
"This experience helps you realize just how temporary life is," he said. "Today is a difficult day. I’m being labeled and sentenced... We’re going to laugh and we’re going to cry because that’s who we are. Most difficult part of all this is the pain of separation [from loved ones].”
Judge Cleland told Sandusky that he received a fair trial. Cleland acknowledged Sandusky had done some good through his charitable work, but his contributions were outweighed by "evil" criminal acts.
“You abused the trust of those who trusted you," Cleland said. "The crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but the assault to their psyches and souls.”
Sandusky has been locked in Centre County prison since June 22, when a jury of seven women and five men found him guilty of 45 out of 48 counts against him for sexual abuse of 10 young boys. The allegations led to the ouster of university president Graham Spanier and longtime Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno, who died in January.
Three victims spoke in court and lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan read letters from a victim and the mother of another boy abused by Sandusky.
“It’s time to stop coming up with excuses for your behavior," said the first victim to speak, adding that the abuse led him to Christianity. "If you remain in denial... you won’t be able to receive the forgiveness that only he [God] offers.”
The victims who spoke were not identified by number as they were in court documents and during testimony. They used the opportunity to speak on Tuesday to convey the anguish they still feel.
"The sentencing of Jerry Sandusky will never erase what he did to me," said one man, "but he must pay for his crimes for which he has been properly convicted of.”
"You should be ashamed of yourself," said another victim. "I want you to know I don’t forgive you and never will forgive you.“
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The courtroom was full, but crowds didn't materialize outdoors as they did during the trial. Sandusky's wife Dottie attended the sentencing and left quickly after Sandusky was escorted away.
The recorded statement by Sandusky broadcast on Penn State Com Radio in which he contende he was the victim of a conspiracy drew the ire of McGettigan.
"The defendant decided to give a radio interview yesterday and victimized his victims again," said McGettigan. "His harmful acts continues to this day as he goes on the radio and whines about his own pain."
Sandusky's statement that he was brought down by a "well-orchestrated effort of the media, investigators, the system, Penn State, psychologists, civil attorneys and other accusers," was also criticized by Cleland. He said the remarks "flow from the undeniable to the unbelievable.”
Though Sandusky denied that he committed any crimes, his attorneys didn't challenge his designation as a sexually violent predator. To comply with his sex offender status, Sandusky must submit DNA samples to a government database.
After today's appearance, guards returned Sandusky to the county jail. In 10 days, he'll be transferred to a state prison in Camp Hill where corrections officials will determine where to incarcerate Sandusky.
At trial, prosecutors said Sandusky was a "predatory pedophile" and a "sick, disturbed man," who targeted "the most vulnerable kids, kids in need."
Defense lawyer Joe Amendola countered that Sandusky was the victim of a grand conspiracy and that prosecutors had no physical proof he had molested anyone. Because of the allegations, "everything [Jerry Sandusky] ever loved, everything he's ever built, and everything he's ever stood for -- it's gone," Amendola said.
The case attracted widespread media coverage, as Sandusky was one of the most notable assistant football coaches in college football and the founder of The Second Mile, a nonprofit charity for underprivileged youth.
Prior to sentencing, Amendola told reporters he planned to appeal the sentencing, asking the judge for a reduced punishment and a new trial. If the motion is denied, Amedola said he would appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, a process that could take several years.