Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers say they will appeal several issues in the wake of the former Penn State football coach’s conviction on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse Friday. But no matter how the appeals process plays out, Sandusky’s legal troubles are far from over, experts say.
By the time Sandusky is transferred to a state penitentiary in the next months, a mountain of civil claims against him are sure to be underway, and he could face new criminal charges as well, according to Jeff Anderson and Benjamin Cardozo law school professor Marci Hamilton. Anderson and Hamilton jointly represent Travis Weaver, whose suit against Sandusky, Penn State and The Second Mile charity Sandisky founded, claims he was abused as a boy by Sandusky over 100 times.
The St. Paul, Minn.-based Anderson told the Daily News that Weaver’s civil suit — filed last December but put on hold while the criminal trial was ongoing — is “ready to go” now that the criminal case has concluded.
Hamilton said that despite Sandusky’s imprisonment, there are numerous reasons why more criminal charges against Sandusky could be filed, along with the civil suits, as more victims come forward. Sandusky’s adopted son, Matt, told prosecutors Thursday night, after the case had gone to the jury, that he, too, had been abused by Sandusky, raising the possibility of new charges.
“It would help the other victims find real justice,” Hamilton said of new charges, adding that unlike the first trial, in which victims were subpoenaed if they were not willing to testify, victims in subsequent prosecutions would appear voluntarily. There is no reason to subpoena anybody to testify against someone serving a life sentence.
Anderson said that in addition to Weaver’s case, he represents two other alleged victims who have filed civil claims. With the Weaver case, Anderson said, “we may now be released to start our process of taking depositions.”
He said he plans to depose Mike McQueary, the former Penn State assistant football coach who told the jury in the criminal case that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the showers on Penn State’s campus in 2001. Anderson said he will also depose “Penn State officials, Second Mile officials, what they knew and when they knew it.”
“We can probe deeper and wider than ever was allowed in the criminal case,” he said. “We have information that (university officials) knew about Sandusky going back quite a ways. I have yet to put them under oath so I can’t say much more.”
Sandusky’s conviction came the same day that Catholic Church official William Lynn was convicted of child endangerment for his role in covering up sexual abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Anderson said the two convictions were “interconnected and not accidental.
“This is the first time a high-ranking Catholic official has been held criminally responsible,” Anderson said. “That would have been Cardinal (Anthony) Bevilacqua had he not died. Lynn is now jailed because of his complicity and the choices top officials made, choosing to protect their reputations over the kids.
“It sends a message that they can no longer operate above the law. That is historic and is reverberating throughout clerical culture in American at highest levels,” Anderson said. “The parallels with the Penn State/Sandusky (case) are striking and identical: an all-male culture that is deeply entrenched around power, money and influence; that is insulated from accountability and where powerful offenders are being given a safe harbor by powerful men who choose to put the reputation of the institution above the well-being and safety of children.”
Anderson said Penn State and Second Mile officials should now be the ones bracing for a backlash of enormous proportions.
“There is a distinct possibility, given the body of evidence that has developed since the first grand jury, that there could be new scrutiny on criminal exposure of other Penn State officials for their failure to protect the kids, for their choices to endanger children,” said Anderson. “I think given the amount of information that has surfaced, and the heightened scrutiny, that there may be criminal exposure to Penn State officials that nobody even imagined. And I think there should be.”
Anderson said he hopes that more government leaders will step up in support of reformed laws to protect children, including in New York.
“There are not enough political leaders jumping into the child protection movement,” he said. Hopefully (Gov.) Cuomo is going to jump into this with a real sense of leadership.”