I feel like I have ten souls in my pocket. There's pieces of childhoods, ravaged boys' memories . . . Give him the justice he deserves. Find him guilty of everything.
- Joseph McGettigan, June 21, 2012.
And they did.
It's over. It was over last night at 9:57 PM, when Juror Number 4, a middle-aged engineer acting as foreman, began reciting the jury's decisions on the forty-eight charges against the embattled and disgraced local hero. Count-by-count, one-by one he went. In the end, the word guilty was uttered forty-five times, enough to sentence Jerry Sandusky to a maximum of 442 years in state prison.
Sure, we still await the trials of Tim Curley, Penn State's athletic director who remains on administrative leave, and Gary Schultz, former Senior Vice President for Finance and Business. They await charges of perjury and failure to report. That trial will happen sometime in the future, when most of the cameras and media and spotlight have withdrawn from Bellefonte, the clichéd sleepy town playing host to the scandal of the moment. Facts will come to light, opinions will be fully formed, and another jury of twelve men and women will deliberate and determine whether Penn State was shrouded in a grand conspiracy for the past ten years.
Yes, that trial will happen, and yes, I will write about it. We will cover it and you will comment. But today, that's a distraction. Much as it has been a distraction for the past seven months. Much in the way that other issues have.
The "fairness" of Joe Paterno's firing? A distraction.
The meet-and-greet tour of Penn State President Rodney Erickson? A distraction.
The sturm und drang surrounding Louis Freeh's internal investigation and yet-to-be-issued report? A distraction.
The conspiracy theories about Governor Tom Corbett and the Second Mile? A distraction.
The Penn State Board of Trustees' insistence on releasing statements at inappropriate times? A distraction.
The "fallacy that [Centre County] was an area too devoted to Penn State football to render a fair and proper judgment?" A distraction.
All of these issues will have their day. This day, however, is not about any of that
It's not about conspiracies, it's not about time-travel conspiracies, it's not about people making financial fortunes . . . It collapses under itself. This is about what happened to those boys.
Those boys. Those ten boys. Eight of whom testified. Two of whom remain unidentified. Those boys and, inevitably, the many more like them who had their innocence stolen away by a serial predator. The crowd gathered outside the Centre County courthouse erupted in cheers for justice; delayed but finally bestowed upon those boys and their bravery in coming forward. And at least a little bit for themselves - justice for a community that had been swindled into believing in the charitable works and good deeds of a manipulative sociopath who fooled everyone around him, even his own family.
Those cheers, however, were neither cheers of vindication nor celebration. Last night was not a night for that. These are the signs of relief. Jerry Sandusky, a sixty-seven year old man, was led away in handcuffs last night. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. Finally, the victims and the local community can begin to find peace. Good luck to all of them - victims, friends, and family. They all deserve the best of all of us in the months ahead.
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