BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Armed with an appeals court decision declaring his 30-to-60-year sentence illegal, Jerry Sandusky returned to a Centre County courtroom Friday to push for an early release from prison.
He left disappointed.
Instead, a state judge ordered the 75-year-old former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach to serve out the full term of his original punishment on 45 counts of child sex abuse. And Sandusky — who had arrived from state prison in Somerset flashing his characteristic wide, toothy grin — was once again led away in handcuffs.
“I apologize that I’m unable to admit remorse for something I didn’t do,” he told Judge Maureen Skerda before she announced her decision. He added later: “No matter what, nobody or nothing will be able to take away what’s in my heart.”
Friday’s hearing came after Superior Court in February rejected Sandusky’s appeal for a new trial but acknowledged that mandatory minimums — since ruled unconstitutional — had been applied in his case.
Because the original sentencing judge crafted a punishment in 2012 that imposed the same sentence on counts that included those mandatory minimums as he did on those that did not, Skerda said, she saw no need to alter the status quo.
“I fully understand that you maintain your innocence and that you shouldn’t be held accountable,” she said to Sandusky. “But I must inform you, you have been convicted by a jury of your peers.”
Sandusky’s attorney, Al Lindsay, vowed to keep fighting to free him.
“No matter how you dress it up, it was a life sentence,” he said. “But I believe that he will get a new trial — that he will be exonerated. My hope is that he will still be alive to see it.”
The roughly two-hour hearing played out largely as a formality in a case that, seven years after the verdict, has not faded from the spotlight.
This week, the state agency that investigates attorney misconduct recommended a one-year law license suspension for the case’s original prosecutor, Frank Fina, arguing that he improperly obtained grand jury testimony during the investigation.
And last month, nearly eight years to the day after the explosive grand jury presentment that first charged Sandusky with the serial sexual abuse of 10 boys, Penn State reported it was investigating claims from a new accuser, who says Sandusky sexually assaulted him on campus between 2000 and 2013.
Still, as Sandusky arrived Friday at the courthouse in Bellefonte a little thinner, a little frailer, and a little less steady on his feet than he was seven years earlier, he appeared hopeful.
Dressed in a baggy yellow prison jumpsuit, he flashed a smile to reporters and, when led into the courtroom, waved to his wife, Dottie, and about a dozen other supporters seated in the gallery.
“We all know in order to get a reduction in sentence, a defendant must express remorse — that he’s a changed man,” Lindsay said. “But I think everyone in this courtroom knows that Mr. Sandusky has consistently denied he did these horrible things.”
Those continued declarations of innocence, said Senior Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Buck, were the reason he deserved to remain behind bars.
She cited the long list of disciplinary infractions Sandusky has racked up during his prison stint. They ranged from refusing orders to hand over his dinner tray to being caught with smuggled medication in his cell.
He filed a grievance this summer when prison guards refused to let a podcaster and documentarian interview him with equipment that had been banned under prison policy.
“There’s a common theme that runs through all of this,” Buck said. “Blaming others, failing to accept responsibility.”
None of Sandusky’s victims attended Friday’s court proceeding, although the state’s victim advocate read letters to the court from four and the mother of a fifth.
“To the end, Mr. Sandusky wanted to manipulate and abuse all of his victims,” wrote Aaron Fisher, who as a 15-year-old reported Sandusky to Centre County authorities a decade ago, opening the case that eventually sent him to prison.