They say "any press is good press."
They couldn't be more wrong.
Tonight, Jerry Sandusky went on the new prime-time news magazine Rock Center with Brian Williams to give some insight into his side of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal.
If you haven't heard, Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of, among other things, "felony charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of someone under 16, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault of someone under 16, indecent assault of someone under 13, and corruption of minors charges," according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
These charges stemmed from a two-year grand jury investigation into alleged sexual abuse by Sandusky that ranged from 1996 to 2005, and it was that grand jury report, released a week and a half ago, that sent shock waves through the college football world and led to the dismissal of head coach Joe Paterno and three high-ranking Penn State administrators, all of whom had knowledge of alleged wrongdoing on Sandusky's part, according to the grand jury report. University president Graham Spanier, vice president of business and finance Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley—the latter two were charged with perjury and failure to notify police of alleged child sexual abuse—were the three administrators who were let go or took administrative leave last week.
The grand jury report, available in full here, is a vile and repulsive look at the alleged criminal sexual exploits of Jerry Sandusky over a period of 10 years.
According to the report, Sandusky, the creator of The Second Mile, a charity that began as a group home and later morphed into a regional organization dedicated to helping young people that come from bad home situations, used his access to young boys and his many perks as a then-assistant coach of Penn State's football team to find, gain the trust of and then molest young boys.
The grand jury report goes into shocking detail at just where and how this was done. Locations include: Sandusky's home (in a basement room set up for "overnight guests"), hotel rooms at different Penn State team functions, an area high school weight room and the showers of Penn State's football facilities—a location where he was allegedly twice witnessed performing sex acts on children.
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If you take the time to read the grand jury report, you will see a clear picture of a monster able to engage in a long-running series of depraved acts on children—a pedophile that not only committed the most horrible and unspeakable criminal sexual acts one can think of, but did so as the ambassador of a charity he had created to help the very children he then hurt.
Jerry Sandusky doesn't see it this way.
In the interview with Bob Costas, Sandusky upheld his innocence. "I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids, I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."
He denied the eyewitness account that Mike McQuery gave to the grand jury about the alleged shower rape in 2002, and he denied the eyewitness account of a Penn State football facility janitor that was also included in the grand jury report.
Sandusky's attorney told Costas that Sandusky's defense team is already working to contact, and has already contacted, some of the eight "victims" named in the grand jury report so they can refute the charges.
Sandusky denied he is a pedophile. He merely classifies what he did as "horsing around."
What does Jerry Sandusky ultimately think he did wrong? "I shouldn't have showered with those kids."
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There are two courts in which Sandusky will be tried for his alleged crimes. One is a court of law, where Sandusky will have a lawyer, counterarguments and evidence to exonerate himself of any and all charges brought against him. Under the watchful eye of the U.S. judicial system Sandusky will be presumed innocent until the time when a jury of his peers finds the evidence against him sufficient to pronounce him guilty.
The other court, however, is already in session. It has been running 24 hours a day for the past week and a half. It is the court of public opinion.
This isn't to say that the rush to judgment in the Jerry Sandusky case by the general public is unfair. There have certainly been people more harshly judged on less evidence (not everything comes with a 23-page grand jury report). In fact, the preponderance of evidence against Sandusky in this case arguably makes this the most rational and well-thought-out (not to mention, if true, deserved) tar-and-feathering the national media has ever been part of.
That doesn't make an appearance on a network TV news magazine to "clear the air" an effective idea any more than shifting chairs on the Titanic is an effective way to keep the boat from going down.
There is a reason that, when charged with a crime, we as citizens have the right to remain silent. I'm no lawyer, but I have seen enough police procedurals to know that right isn't anything to shake a stick at.
Jerry Sandusky chose to relinquish that right.
This isn't a minor gaffe or misunderstanding. This is possibly the biggest isolated child sexual abuse scandal in modern American history. Even if Sandusky is somehow found innocent despite all the evidence to the contrary, this scandal will now be a part of Sandusky's life forever and will most likely haunt his family and friends.
There are no get-out-of-jail-free cards or mea culpas that will smooth things over. At best, Sandusky's true innocence—if it exists outside of his mind—will be vindicated in a court of law and he will be afforded the opportunity to, as a free man, work every day to repair his tattered image.
At worst, Sandusky, as the evidence overwhelmingly calls for, will be proved guilty and look downright oblivious to the fact he went on TV and claimed he was neither a serial pedophile that has victimized at least dozens of children or that any of the criminal wrongdoing in the grand jury report occurred.
There are no winners here. The children who were hurt don't deserve to have the alleged incidents of traumatic abuse they were subjected to termed "horsing around." The general public doesn't need to hear an old man at the end of his rope gasping for some sort of mercy while denying any and all culpability. Finally, Sandusky doesn't win either—he just comes off as either delusional or calculating in the face of an atrocity that every shred of evidence shows that he committed.
Forgiveness isn't simple, and broken trust is hard to earn back. If Sandusky is actually innocent of the charges, a phone conversation with Bob Costas isn't enough to turn the tide of public opinion.
It is just one more way to look worse, which is exactly what Jerry Sandusky did Monday night.