BELLEFONTE, Pa. (USA Today) - Jurors in the child sex abuse trial of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky began deliberating his fate Thursday afternoon after prosecutors said Sandusky's attorneys had outlined "a conspiracy that collapses under its own weight."
"If you conclude there is a conspiracy here bring the handcuffs for me and Mr. Fina," prosecutor Joe McGettigan said, referring to his partner Frank Fina.
As the jury was deliberating, an attorney representing one of Sandusky's six adopted children said he also was a victim of his father's abuse. Attorney Andrew Shubin issued a statement saying that Matt Sandusky sought him during the trial and "confirmed" that he also had been abused. Shubin stated that he and Matt Sandusky met with prosecutors and that the younger Sandusky was prepared to testify for the prosecution.
He was not called as a witness. The Pennsylvania attorney general's office had no immediate comment.
Earlier, Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola said the charges against his client came from alleged victims who sought financial gain for their testimony and who were improperly coached by police investigators.
"I ask you not to forget what Mr. Sandusky did to them," McGettigan said, before flashing childhood photographs of eight of the alleged victims on a giant screen across from the jury box.
"It's not about seeking fame, fortune or money," he said.
McGettigan then replaced the pictures of the alleged victims with a portrait of the 68-year-old defendant.
"This case is also about him," he said.
McGettigan said Sandusky "accommodated" children to "sexual touch."
"He displayed the full spectrum of predatory pedophile behavior," he said, referring to previous testimony from alleged victims who said their contact with Sandusky routinely began with the former coach putting his hand on their legs during car rides.
In a voice barely audible in the courtroom, McGettigan concluded his argument saying: "I feel like I have 10 souls in my pocket."
He then marched to the defense table and stood beside the defendant, who appeared to be startled by the move.
"You can't give them back the pieces of the souls he took," McGettigan said, as two of the alleged victims watched from the front row.
"Find him guilty of everything. Give him the justice he really deserves," McGettigan said.
Judge John Cleland told the jurors that if they didn't reach a decision by the end of the day they would be sequestered overnight at a local hotel. He said they would be provided their own rooms, but TVs and telephones would be turned off.
He also told them they couldn't have cellphones or any other electronic devices.
In closing arguments, Sandusky's defense attorney assailed the credibility of his client's alleged victims, telling the jury that state investigators repeatedly coached them and others to provide damaging information against the former Penn State football coach.
Amendola, pacing before the jurors, seized on the alleged victim who prompted the investigation nearly four years ago. He charged that the witness provided the most damning information against Sandusky only after he was prompted by investigators and a private attorney who Amendola claimed is seeking money.
The alleged victim reported in 2008 that Sandusky had abused him over a nearly four-year period. He made his initial complaint to local school officials and later reported it to Pennsylvania social service authorities.
In the grand jury report he is identified as Victim 1.
"Hundreds of thousands of kids have been involved with Jerry Sandusky over the years and not one before this witness, not a teacher, not a counselor, said he (Sandusky) did something. Not one," Amendola said, waving his arms before the jurors.
Amendola said the initial witness started a "colossal chain of events" that led to Sandusky's arrest and trial.
"They kept prompting (the witness)," Amendola said. "They kept meeting with (the witness). The system decided that Mr. Sandusky was guilty. And the system set out to convict him."
Sandusky, dressed in a gray blazer, looked on as his attorney argued on his behalf.
Amendola went on to challenge the prosecution's timeline of events, suggesting it was impossible for Sandusky to maintain his work schedule and carry on sexual encounters with so many children.
"It doesn't add up," he said. "It makes no sense."
He also stressed that prosecutors had no physical evidence of abuse.
Amendola told the jurors there would be no winners in the case. Even if Sandusky is acquitted, his life has already been destroyed, as have the reputations of many, including coaching icon Joe Paterno, Amendola said.
"All he ever wanted to do was to help kids from the time he was a kid," Amendola said. "He helped thousands of kids."
Before closing arguments began Cleland dismissed three of the 51 child sex-abuse charges against Sandusky.
Cleland found one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and one count of aggravated indecent assault involving the accuser known as Victim 4 weren't supported by the evidence. Another charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse involving another boy was dismissed because Cleland said it duplicated another count.
Sandusky still faces 48 criminal counts involving 10 alleged victims.
Cleland said two of the counts had to be dismissed because the alleged victim testified Sandusky attempted to penetrate him but didn't say that such penetration had actually occurred. Cleland said he would have been required to set aside any convictions on those counts, because "the verdict was not supported by the evidence."
Sandusky's arrest in November sparked an explosive scandal that led to the firing of Paterno and the departure of the university president, and it cast a critical eye on the role of college administrators in reporting abuse allegations. The sweeping case also led to renewed focus on child abuse issues.
Cleland began Thursday's court session by instructing the 12 jurors and three alternates that they should be guided by their own "common sense" when they begin deliberations.
The judge said jurors will each get a list showing each accuser, a worksheet of each alleged crime that will have questions they must answer in order to reach a verdict, along with a verdict slip.
"We make few decisions in life that are free from all doubt," he told them. "You must be convinced to the same degree that you would act in a matter of your own life."
He explained that just the "mere suspicion of guilt" is not enough to arrive at a guilty verdict.
"You may believe he exercised poor judgment, but poor judgment in itself does not warrant criminality," he said. He also said that it is "not necessarily a crime to shower with a boy, lather with soap, engage in back rubbing."
Spectators began lining up outside the courtroom at 2:30 a.m. for the limited number of seats reserved for the public.
Connie Boland, 60, a guidance counselor at a central Pennsylvania school, said she referred at least 15 children to Sandusky's The Second Mile charity for at-risk children. She was one of the first in line Thursday.
Boland said she came because "I wanted him to convince me he didn't do it."
She said she was "very disappointed" that Sandusky didn't testify.
A verdict will come nearly four years after a wide-ranging criminal investigation was launched and seven months after the first charges were announced.
Prosecutors called 22 witnesses, including eight of the alleged victims who testified during the seven-day trial, providing often wrenching accounts of abuse, ranging from fondling to forced oral sex and sodomy.
One of the victims recalled how he screamed for help while Sandusky allegedly assaulted him in the basement bedroom of the coach's State College, Pa., home.
Two other alleged victims have never been found by authorities. However, witnesses to their alleged assaults described two separate instances in which Sandusky abused young boys in Penn State football locker-rooms.
Sandusky did not testify during the trial. But he was heard from via a November interview with NBC's Bob Costas, saying he probably shouldn't have showered with boys; and in letters he wrote to one of his accusers.
Sandusky's wife, Dottie, told jurors Tuesday that while she remembered many of her husband's alleged accusers, she never observed any inappropriate contact involving her husband.
She was preceded to the witness stand by a mix of longtime family friends and former participants in the coach's charity, who voiced support for the defendant.
By Kevin Johnson, USA Today