BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Editor's note: This story contains graphic descriptions of alleged sexual abuse.
The words came haltingly, punctuated by ragged sighs, groans and cracking voices as two teenage boys just days out of high school bared their darkest secrets to a packed courtroom.
One sat up straight, bit his lower lip and then seemed to break down, his slender frame wracked by sobs as he buried his head in his hands. Two days later, the other cracked his knuckles and fidgeted. His childish "yeahs" made him seem younger than his years, more vulnerable.
Neither wanted to be there. Both hung their heads and cried as they described in detail what they said a mentor did to them when they were little boys who needed a father figure.
"He ...," the 18-year-old known as Alleged Victim No. 1, started to say. The witness hesitated, choking back sobs.
"He put ..." Pausing now, he reached for the strength to spit out the words.
"He put his mouth on my privates."
"Um, he, ah," began the other 18-year-old, known as Alleged Victim No. 9. After a nervous laugh, he described the act of oral sex in graphic terms. Chewing on a thumbnail, he explained, "That's how you have to put it." And then he revealed that he was sodomized.
"He got real aggressive, and just forced me into it," he said. "And I just went with it; there was no fighting against it." Sometimes, he said, he'd "scream, tell him to get off me. But you're in a basement, no one can hear you down there."
"He," they said, is Jerry Sandusky, the retired, 68-year-old defensive coordinator for Penn State University's storied football team. Sandusky, who also founded a charity for at-risk kids known as the Second Mile, is on trial in Centre County Court, charged with 52 counts of molesting 10 boys over 15 years. Prosecutors say he used the charity to troll for the preteen boys he groomed for sex.
The Sandusky Eight are known in the official court record as Alleged Victims Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10. (Nos. 2 and 8 have not been identified, but others described walking in on sexual acts between Sandusky and boys.)
The use of numbers to identify the witnesses is a way to preserve the privacy of young men who say they were sexually abused as children; men who are swallowing their own shame and embarrassment to step forward at a high-profile trial.
To the 100-plus people who gained entry to the courtroom, these men finally do have names and faces. Prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan III unveiled them in his opening statement on Monday, projecting boyhood photos on a big screen. Jurors and spectators heard their voices and shared their discomfort as the case rocketed forward at a breathtaking pace. There was barely time for lunch, not that anyone felt like eating.
A tornado's swath
The Sandusky scandal landed with an icky thump in November, the long-buried secrets sliming the reputation of Penn State's football program and an idyllic spot proud to call itself the Happy Valley.
Already, it has cut a tornado's swath: Legendary coach Joe Paterno, affectionately know as "JoePa," is gone, dead and buried. University President Graham Spanier, gone and suing. Assistant coach Mike McQueary: gone for now, and thinking about suing. Two other university officials also are gone, and face criminal charges that they lied and covered up the Sandusky affair. Other state and federal investigations are ongoing. Even the Second Mile is closing its doors and transferring its assets to a charity in Texas.
Last week, the boys' stories revealed even more ripples of damage. It was not easy to watch eight young men discuss the intimate details of sexual acts they said were performed on them before they were old enough to grasp the significance. They were indelibly marked by the experience. Two said that Sandusky's shirtless bear hugs left them with an abiding aversion to chest hair.
Sandusky admits showering with boys but denies the child-sex accusations. His lawyers will begin their defense of him Monday. It appears to be an uphill battle, and it is not yet certain whether he will testify. Defense attorney Joe Amendola may present evidence about a condition known as Histrionic Personality Disorder. Symptoms include attention seeking, a flair for drama, inappropriate seductiveness and sexual acting out.
During the first week, though, the courtroom truly belonged to the Sandusky Eight -- the young men who said they were seduced, molested and betrayed. I
The testimony led Tom Kline, the lawyer for Alleged Victim No. 5, to observe: "It's just remarkable how many children one man can shower with."
There was more: Sandusky wrote another boy "creepy love letters," according to testimony, and completed a summer-school project for him. He followed yet another boy home in his car after the ninth grader started to avoid him.
There are 10 women and six men, including alternates, on the jury; half have ties to Penn State.
One witness said that when he finally told on Sandusky, nobody believed him at first. At school,
he said, he was viewed as a bad kid and was admonished, "Jerry Sandusky has a heart of gold. He'd never do anything like that."
Even Joe Miller, a high school coach who said he walked in on Sandusky in a compromising position with a boy, didn't want to over think what he saw. Why?
"Jerry Sandusky was a saint," he testified.
Who are the accusers?
The accusers, as they are sometimes called, seemed to share common traits as boys - toothy grins, big eyes and wiry frames. Testimony has revealed a bit more about their personalities and their family histories. Three lived in public housing; three were sent to foster homes; one lived in a trailer with his mother, who worked in a sports bar.
Most never knew their fathers. School guidance counselors referred them to the Second Mile, and nearly all fell under Sandusky's sway during their second year in the program.
They grew up hiding their secrets. One went to Bible college, and another to prison. A third joined the Army National Guard. One is a father, another is about to become one. Most have obtained lawyers and are receiving counseling. In several cases, the first person they told about what they say happened to them was a girlfriend.
CNN generally does not identify the alleged victims of sex crimes and will continue to respect the young witnesses' wish for privacy.
Perks, with strings attached
Sandusky supplied the boys with tickets to football games, locker room visits with the team, athletic gear and, perhaps most important of all -- attention. He bought several of them gifts, including sports gear, jerseys, games and computers. He even bought one boy dress clothes so he could accompany the Sandusky family to church.
It made kids who had little going for them feel "cool," as several of the young men testified.
"He made me feel like I was part of something, like a family," said No. 3, who said he spent the night at Sandusky's home and was fondled many times on the basement waterbed. Why did he put up with it?
"He gave me things that I had never had before. I just didn't want to give any of it up." He said he loved Sandusky, who told him "that he loved me, that I was unconditionally loved, like a family."
It was something No. 3 said he wasn't getting at home.
Sandusky made the others feel special, loved and important as well. But as the eight young men said last week in court, it came at a price. Jokes and "touchy-feely" hugs turned into wandering hands, they said, and in most of the cases, something much more sexual. Sandusky did not ask permission, the witnesses said. And they didn't voice their objections. Some tried to squirm away. Others simply shut down mentally and "just rolled with it," as one witness said.
Water became a common theme -- groping down shorts in a swimming pool, naked bear hugs and soap fights in a locker room shower, goodnight cuddling and more on the basement waterbed.
It usually began in the car, on the way to football games, tailgate parties and family picnics, according to testimony. Sandusky's hand would find a boy's knee, they said. He would squeeze and let the hand linger.
Sandusky "would put his hand on my leg, basically like I was his girlfriend," No. 4 recalled. "It freaked me out extremely bad." He added that he would push the hand away but "after a little while, it would come right back. That drove me nuts."
He wasn't the only one.
"I think the hand on the knee thing happened like right away," No. 3 testified. "That was a big thing for Jerry, rubbing the knee and the inside of the leg and tickling me."
Some said they would inch away from the hand. Others tried to avoid the passenger seat.
"When we went to games," No. 7 testified, "I would try to get as far in the back as I could so it wouldn't happen to me."
The investigation begins
Thumb through Sandusky's biography, "Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story," and there are photographs of some of his Second Mile protégés, particularly Nos. 3, 4 and 6. Investigators used the book to search for other alleged victims after No. 1 came forward in 2008, according to Anthony Sassano, a former Altoona police detective who now works as an agent for the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
An anonymous e-mail to the Centre Country district attorney led them to Mike McQueary, the assistant coach who reported seeing Sandusky engaging in "extremely sexual" behavior with a boy in the showers in 2001 or 2002. That led to an earlier, 1998 report involving No. 6.
That case was investigated but no charges were filed. The investigating officer testified that he thought charges were warranted, but the district attorney at the time disagreed. Nonetheless, Sandusky acknowledged his "bad judgment" in showering with boys and promised to stop.
Meanwhile, a janitor who knew about another incident in the showers also came forward.
Sassano was assigned to the new case in mid-2009 and began knocking on doors in earnest.
"It was a daunting task to get these young individuals to come forward," he said, "to get them to
admit they'd been abused by a man, had performed sex acts with that man."
He added, "This had been going on for a long period of time; it was kept very secretive. And people wanted to keep that secret, I believe."
Investigators obtained lists of children who had attended Second Mile programs, and, eventually, search warrants for Penn State's athletic facilities and Sandusky's home.
As for No. 4, he testified that he put up with the groping and the sex and the neediness for years because he enjoyed the perks.
"I kind of looked at Jerry as a father figure," he said, "and I felt cool because I'm getting nice things out of it. I didn't want to lose that. I thought of myself as one of the cool kids at school. And I don't really want to admit that it's happening. I've spent so many years burying this in the back of my head."
But now, he wishes he'd come forward.
"I found out this has happened over and over and over again, forever, and I feel if I had just said something back then, this wouldn't have happened to them," he said.
"So I feel responsible for other victims."