US coach Jerry Sandusky convicted of child sex abuse

A US jury convicted former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky Friday on 45 of 48 counts in a child sex abuse case that shocked the nation and rocked the university.

Police led the 68-year-old Sandusky -- who had a dazed look on his face -- away from the courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania in handcuffs, and into a waiting patrol car to take him to the local jail, television footage showed.

Bystanders outside the courthouse cheered upon news of the verdict in the high-profile case in a nation where many are obsessed by college sports and revere the coaches of their American football teams.

The headline-grabbing scandal also has tarnished the legacy of Pennsylvania State University, one of the country's most illustrious college football programs.

Sandusky, who stood accused of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, allegedly recruited his young victims under the guise of a program he ran for abused and neglected youth.

The once popular coach was found guilty of charges related to each of the 10 victims, but acquitted of three individual counts relative to three separate individuals, the Harrisburg-based Patriot-News reported.

Sentencing was expected in about 90 days, according to US media reports.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly called Sandusky "a serial child predator who committed horrific acts" and thanked the victims for testifying, saying they had "shown great strength" in telling their stories.

Eight of those victims took the stand, offering graphic testimony about Sandusky's actions, on campus, in hotel rooms and at his home. Another coach told the court he saw Sandusky raping a boy in the showers at Penn State.

Sandusky, who did not testify in his own defense, had faced 48 counts of sexually abusing at least 10 boys between 1994 and 2008. Four additional counts were dismissed during the trial.

Prosecutors said he recruited his victims through his Second Mile charity, which went bankrupt last month after donations dried up in the wake of the scandal.

Defense lawyer Joseph Amendola told reporters that he had battled a "tidal wave of public opinion against Jerry Sandusky" and that the verdict, though not a surprise, was a disappointment for the Sandusky family.

"I used the analogy that we were trying to climb Mount Everest from the bottom of the mountain. Well obviously, we didn't make it," Amendola said.

Amendola said there were "decent appeal issues" that his team would pursue, but acknowledged: "Essentially, the sentence that Jerry will receive is a life sentence."

That statement elicited cheers from the crowd gathered outside the courthouse in bucolic Bellefonte, which has been invaded by the media since the trial began on June 11.

The jury in the case -- which included one Penn State professor, a student and many others with Penn State ties -- had deliberated under tight security since Thursday.

The jurors therefore were likely unaware of the bombshell disclosure from Sandusky's youngest adopted son, Matt, who said through his attorneys that he too was a victim of sex abuse at the hands of Sandusky.

Amendola told reporters that the allegations had led to the decision not to put his client on the stand, as Matt Sandusky could then have been called as a witness.

"To have Matt testify against him would have absolutely destroyed whatever chances Jerry Sandusky had of acquittal," Amendola said.

On Thursday, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan had made an emotional plea to the jury to convict Sandusky, depicting him as a predatory pedophile who callously groomed his young victims.

"I feel like I have 10 pieces of souls in my pockets, pieces of childhoods ravished," McGettigan said.

The scandal led to the firing of Penn State's longtime head football coach Joe Paterno, a national icon whose fall from grace came just a few weeks before his unexpected death from lung cancer in January at the age of 85.

The legendary coach was fired in November for failing to notify authorities when he was told Sandusky had been seen molesting a boy in the shower. The university's president, Graham Spanier, was also sacked.

Paterno's family released a brief statement calling the verdict an "important milestone," thanking the jurors for their "diligent service" and offering prayers to the victims and their families.

Two other Penn State officials, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, face trial for lying to a grand jury investigating Sandusky.

Penn State said in a statement that it wanted to "provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the university."

"No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr Sandusky, but we do hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing," it said.

Kelly however had tough words for those officials who have yet to face trial, saying: "To those who fail to respond to child sexual abuse: their behavior is abominable."

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