Jerry Sandusky's Tribulation, Town in Trial

Paul WardContributor IIIFebruary 13, 2012

Jerry Sandusky
Jerry SanduskyRob Carr/Getty Images

The trial of Jerry Sandusky, on 52 counts of child sexual abuse, may start on May 14. Or it may not. The trial will probably be held in the newly renovated Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa. Sandusky has agreed to be judged by a local jury. But nothing has been decided.

Much of the story about Jerry Sandusky is ambiguous these days.      

Meanwhile, the one-time Nittany Lion defensive coordinator is back on his deck throwing biscuits to Bo, his brown and white Newfoundland.  "I used to have a lot of contact with a lot of people and so that circle is diminished, and as it diminished, you know Bo is still there," Sandusky said in an interview with the New York Times in December. "And I swear he understands. I swear he knows. And you know I love him dearly for that."   

For a moment on Friday it looked as if neighbors might persuade a judge to make Sandusky stay holed up on tighter bail restrictions inside his house, the back of which borders an elementary school playground. The prosecutors said local neighbors reported seeing him watch the children. 

But at the length of at least a football field, how can you tell what the man is looking at, much less thinking?

The judge took the matter under consideration; a ruling is expected early this week. 

After his court appearance Sandusky strode past cameras and questions, looking cheerful if not confident.  He spoke briefly to reporters. Sometimes as he spoke his eyes were closed. He reminded you of a blind man. He said it had come down to not being able to be out on the deck with his dog. He couldn’t even see his grandchildren. People had turned on him, after all these years, people who had been in his home, with their kids.  

The more he said the more he began to sound like a victim, which, of course, often has a pejorative connotation these days in America.

The real victims — if there are any, one has to say — went unacknowledged. 

And yet how should he look? It's an odd predicament.

Instinctively, our society has decided that innocence is better conveyed through a smile. Certainly that’s what an attorney would say.  After all, if you’re guilty, our Puritan psyche assures us that any ambiguity of expression, much less a frown, must reflect a sinful heart.  

And yet, what if you’re a sociopath?  What if you’ve committed terrible crimes but in your heart of hearts you don't feel you were doing anything wrong? How do you look then? 

We may never know Jerry Sandusky, no matter what a jury finds.  And we may never know the community in which he flourished, and which has known him for all these years.   

And what about Mrs. Sandusky, Dottie? Who is she, what does she know, what did she hear, and how does she manage these days?

Clearly, she gives no truck to the press standing in her driveway.  The other day she drove right past a reporter doing a stand-up, and right into her garage.  The reporter said she’d almost been run down. But you can’t tell from the footage. 

How much of anything in this case is exaggeration?  How much is the beginning of hysteria, or guilt? 

On either side of the Sandusky’s house, signs in the front yard promote the RAINN Network.  (RAINN stands for "Rape, Abuse, Incest and National National Network.")

Sandusky's lawyer claims that every time Sandusky opens his front door a neighbor calls to say that he's broken the terms of his bail. 

And for the last two months, in among the digital mob, there’s the plaintive woman’s voice on YouTube saying,  “Please, Mrs. Sandusky. Make the call. It’s over. You don’t have to live the lie one more day. It’s time, Dorothy. Make the call.” 

In sum, there's not much new in the case, or in Bellefonte, where people used to say there wasn't much corruption because everybody knew everyone else.

Now people are just waiting to see what happens. 

About the only news is that the editor of the Centre Daily Times, Bob Heisse, is moving on to a newspaper in Springfield, Ill. He's the one who kept reporters on the case of Ray Gricar, the prosecutor who had once looked into allegations made against Jerry Sandusky.  Gricar disappeared several years ago under strange circumstances and is presumed dead.

No, there's not much new—except for one angle suggested in a recent editorial in the Centre Daily Times. It’s something out of a John D. McDonald mystery.  Or maybe, Elmore Leonard. A follow-the-money story.

To be continued.