BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jurors in Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse case began deliberations Thursday after prosecutors described him as a serial molester who groomed his victims, while his defense lawyer said the former Penn State assistant football coach was being victimized by an overzealous prosecution and greedy accusers.
Prosecutors said Sandusky was "a serial, predatory pedophile" who used gifts and the pageantry of Penn State's vaunted football program to lure and abuse vulnerable boys who came from troubled homes.
"What you should do is come out and say to the defendant that he molested and abused and give them back their souls," Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan III. "I give them to you. Acknowledge and give them justice."
Standing behind Sandusky, McGettigan implored the jury to convict him
"He molested and abused and hurt these children horribly," McGettigan said. "He knows he did it, and you know he did it.
"Find him guilty of everything."
Sandusky's attorney said the 68-year-old former coach was being victimized by investigators who led accusers into making false claims about a generous man whose charity gave them much-needed love.
"They went after him, and I submit to you they were going to get him hell or high water, even if they had to coach witnesses," Amendola said in a sometimes angry closing argument.
If convicted, Sandusky could spend the rest of his life in state prison. He is charged with 48 counts related to 10 boys over 15 years. The jury includes nine people with ties to Penn State University.
The closing arguments came after seven days testimony, some of it graphically describing alleged abuse suffered at the hands of Sandusky, including touching in showers, fondling and in some cases forced oral or anal sex. One alleged victim — a foster child at the time — testified that Sandusky threatened him, telling him if he disclosed the assaults he would never see his family again.
Although Sandusky didn't take the stand in his own defense, McGettigan seized on an interview he gave NBC's "Rock Center" just after his arrest. In it, Sandusky seemed to stumble at times and struggled to give direct answers to questions about his conduct.
Asked if he was sexually attracted to boys, Sandusky told NBC's Bob Costas: "Sexually attracted, you know, I, I enjoy young people. I, I love to be around them. ... No, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys."
McGettigan said, "I would think that the automatic response, if someone asks you if you're a criminal, a pedophile, a child molester, or anything along those lines, would be: 'You're crazy. No. Are you nuts?'"
Prosecutors said Sandusky met his victims through The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth he had founded.
Eight young men testified that they were abused by the former Penn State assistant football coach, and jurors also heard about two other alleged victims through other witnesses, including another former coach.
It was the testimony of that coach, then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, that prompted university trustees the fire longtime coach Joe Paterno and the university's president.
Sandusky has repeatedly denied the allegations, and his defense at trial included a suggestion that his accusers have a financial motive to make up stories, years after the fact.
McGettigan displayed the pictures of eight smiling children for the jury, reminding them of what he said were lives forever altered by Sandusky's abuse.
"These are childhoods ravished," he said. "Memories destroyed."
But Amendola anticipated that in his own closing statement, telling jurors not to let the prosecution tug their heartstrings.
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