iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Michael Smerconish

GET UPDATES FROM Michael Smerconish
 

Sandusky's Devastating Interview

Posted: 11/20/11 11:11 AM ET

Outrage.

That's all I could think of when watching Bob Costas interview embattled former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. And I was personally outraged, but I also had a book title in mind.

After O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder, famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wrote a book called Outrage, describing all that had gone wrong in that case. It was a long list, but, most important, Bugliosi said that the prosecution blew it by not using Simpson's statement to police the afternoon after the murders. In that half-hour interview, Simpson said he had no idea how he cut his left middle finger -- coincidentally -- about the same time someone was using a knife to nearly decapitate his ex-wife. He also didn't know how blood had gotten in his driveway.

Q: How did you get the injury on your hand?

O.J.: I don't know. The first time, when I was in Chicago and all, but at the house I was just running around.

Q: How did you do it in Chicago?

O.J.: I broke a glass. One of you guys had just called me, and I was in the bathroom, and I just went bonkers for a little bit.

Q: Is that how you cut it?

O.J.: Mmm, it was cut before, but I think I just opened it again, I'm not sure.

Q: Do you recall bleeding at all in your truck, in the Bronco?

O.J.: I recall bleeding at my house, and then I went to the Bronco. The last thing I did before I left, when I was rushing, was went and got my phone out of the Bronco.

So what's the connection between Simpson and Sandusky, who is charged with assaulting eight boys? Both men's statements are devastating to their defense.

First, Sandusky's voice on the phone interview was very weak and unsure. He sounded like a beaten man -- not an indignant individual wrongly accused and eager to clear his name.

Second, a telephone interview shows he clearly isn't ready for anyone to watch him respond to tough questions. For good reason. In response to Costas' questions, Sandusky corroborated many of the elements of the claims against him and stopped just shy of an admission. Consider this exchange:

Costas: Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?

Sandusky: Well, I could say that, you know, I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their leg without intent of sexual contact. So if you look at it that way, there are things that would be accurate.

His statement "I could say that..." might be revealing. It sounds as if he had a conversation with his attorney wherein the attorney asked, "Jerry, what could you say about this?" To which Sandusky might have started with, "I could say that...," which he then repeated to Costas. It's akin to "this is my story."

Also, with this reply and others, Sandusky is essentially waiving any (albeit remote) argument that any of the boys had misidentified him. Taken together, his answers confirm that he is the guy they are talking about, that he was in the location where they placed him, and that he was naked, showering, and even touching someone else's child!

Something else he said of significance relates to the incident in the grand jury report involving then-grad assistant Mike McQueary.

Costas: What did happen in the shower the night that Mike McQueary happened upon you and the young boy?

Sandusky: OK, we were showering and horsing around. And he actually turned all the showers on and was actually sliding across the floor and we were, as I recall, possibly like snapping a towel and horseplay.

If it was all as innocent as Sandusky asks us to believe, how does he have such a clear level of recall? By his own admission he has been involved with many boys over many years. This particular incident was more than nine years ago. If what McQueary told the grand jury is accurate -- that he witnessed a rape -- we can understand how the events would be seared into McQueary's memory. But if Sandusky's version is true -- innocent horseplay -- how does Sandusky remember it so clearly? (And to be clear, a grown man showering naked with a 10-year-old boy is not innocent horseplay.)

Worst for Sandusky was this response:

Costas: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?

Sandusky: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys? Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But, no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys.

This was the only time Sandusky repeated a question. It sounded like a "tell" in poker parlance. In response to a question that anyone else would immediately shout back, "Hell, no," he needed to pause, catch his breath, and deliberate.

Sandusky would have sealed his fate had he admitted to sexual attraction. The grand jury report explains that, in 1998, police were eavesdropping when the mother of an alleged Sandusky victim confronted the coach in her home. Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar was then investigating Sandusky.

The grand jury reports states: "The mother of Victim 6 confronted Sandusky about showering with her son, the effect it had on her son, whether Sandusky had sexual feelings when he hugged her naked son in the shower and where Victim 6's buttocks were when Sandusky hugged him."

Presumably, Sandusky did not admit to seeking sexual gratification, just as he refused to do when Costas questioned him last week. Why is that important?

Robert Buehner, Jr., the current district attorney of Montour County and longtime friend of Gricar, told me he suspected that Gricar "planted" the gratification question in 1998. To prosecute for indecent assault, Pennsylvania law requires not only evidence of the touching an intimate part of another person under the age of 13, but also sexual gratification. In the Costas' interview, Buehner notes, Sandusky was ambiguous about the contact while acknowledging that he showered with the boys.

"I am sure that frustrated Ray Gricar [in 1998]," says Buehner, who maintains that nothing would have stood in the way of his friend had he been able to prosecute Sandusky. "He could have cared less who was the target of the investigation. It would not have bothered him one bit that it was Jerry Sandusky."

Outrage indeed. But while I see a common thread in interviews of Sandusky and O.J., there is one big difference: aside from the perpetrator, there were no witnesses to the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.

At Penn State, there are at least nine witnesses.

This piece originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer.