No punishment good enough for Sandusky

When a judge is contemplating a prison sentence for a 68-year-old convicted of heinous crimes, a minimum of 30 years in prison might seem more than enough. After all, assuming the inmate were to live that long, he or she wouldn’t be eligible for parole until age 98.

That’s precisely what McKean County Common Pleas Court Judge John Cleland did Tuesday in sentencing serial sex offender Jerry Sandusky to 30 to 60 years behind bars, following his conviction four months ago on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse.

It wasn’t enough.

Not just because the former Penn State assistant football coach was found guilty of molesting 10 young boys during a 15-year reign of terror between 1994 and 2008.

Not just because he met some of his unsuspecting victims after he founded The Second Mile, a charity purportedly dedicated to helping troubled children.

And not just because, by his actions, Sandusky forever tarnished the image of the university he claimed to love and everyone associated with it – administrators, educators, athletes, students, alumni and others – during his more than three-decade affiliation with the school and its vaunted football program.

No, he deserved a harsher sentence because, despite 109 days to reflect between his conviction and sentencing, it is abundantly clear that he continues to live in a topsy-turvy, Alice-in-Wonderland world, where there is only one true victim in this entire sordid affair: Jerry Sandusky.

If there was any doubt about that, it was put to rest this week with the release of his letter to the judge, a statement recorded from his jail cell the day before his sentencing and in his rambling courtroom remarks to the judge Tuesday.

“In my heart, I know I did not do these disgusting acts,” he wrote in his pre-sentencing letter to Cleland. “However, I didn’t tell the jury … I was supposed to be David but failed to pick up the slingshot. Goliath won, and I must deal with the outcome.”

In his jailhouse interview, which was later aired on the Penn State student radio station, Sandusky was more direct on where the real blame lies for his fate.

“A young man who was dramatic, a veteran accuser and always sought attention, started everything,” he said. “He was joined by a well-
orchestrated effort of the media, investigators, the system, Penn State, psychologists, civil attorneys and other accusers. They won.”

And in comments to the judge that the lead prosecutor aptly characterized as “a masterpiece of banal self-delusion,” Sandusky again professed his innocence: “Others can take my life, they can make me out to be a monster. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts.”

That his remarks followed tearful testimony from four of his victims – “I will not forgive you, but I ask that all the other victims forgive me for not coming forward sooner,” said one – only made it worse.

If ever there was a case that cried out for a statement that such acts won’t be tolerated in a law-abiding society, this was it.

Based on the charges, the judge could have sentenced the convicted pedophile to up to 400 years in prison. Even 100 or 200 years would have sent the same strong message.

Cleland’s sentence of 30 to 60 years will have the same practical effect, of course, tantamount as it is to a lifetime in prison.

Why doesn’t that seem enough?