STATE COLLEGE — It was long after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had been arrested, tried and convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys before his wife said she realized just how much trouble he was in.
In an interview this week at her home in State College, Dottie Sandusky said she still had hope even after his 45-count guilty verdict. But when the judge handed down a 30- to 60-year prison term, she said she fully comprehended his predicament.
“I think it was at the sentencing,” she said during a 90-minute interview at her dining room table. “I mean, I really and truly believe, I believe in, when you tell the truth and who you are, that things work out.”
Jerry Sandusky, 70, was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing boys over 15 years but maintains his innocence and is pursuing appeals. The scandal brought down the Penn State president and storied head coach Joe Paterno and eventually led the school to pay nearly $60 million to settle civil claims. Three former Penn State administrators await trial on charges they covered up allegations against Sandusky.
In recent weeks, Dottie Sandusky has been granting interviews, arguing her husband’s conviction was unjust and claiming the accusers who testified against him told inaccurate stories to cash in. An attorney for one of the accusers calls her denials “obscene.”
Speaking with The Associated Press, she said her husband had informed her when complaints were made against him regarding showering with boys in 1998 and 2001.
Those complaints didn’t seem to worry Jerry Sandusky, she said, even though one spawned an investigation by police and child protective services and the other resulted in a restriction against him bringing children into Penn State facilities.
“He didn’t think a thing about it,” she said.
She said Jerry Sandusky also told her promptly about an investigation, which began in late 2008, into his contact with a boy at a high school in central Pennsylvania that forced him to hire a lawyer and led to the filing of criminal charges.
“Jerry said when it first started it was really nothing,” she said.
In the interview, Dottie Sandusky repeatedly turned her focus to the eight young men who testified against him and the couple dozen others who have contacted Penn State with abuse claims.
“I know who he is, and I know what he is, and people need to look into some of the other situations,” she said.
Cliff Rieders, a Williamsport attorney who represents one of the accusers, said he viewed the interviews being given by Dottie Sandusky as an effort to influence public opinion and possibly help his appeal.
“It’s a little bit like dealing with an obscene phone caller. If you ask the police what to do, they’ll always tell you: ‘Just hang up,’” Rieders said. “So we have all been quiet because we feel in a sense she’s a victim herself, and she’s making a lot of noise, which has no factual basis, and that her denials are obscene.”
Dottie Sandusky said she is hoping the state Supreme Court grants her husband a new trial; he lost a lower-level appeal and the justices have not said whether they will take the case.
Her claim that witnesses were manipulated into giving false evidence was a key element of her husband’s criminal defense. The fact that jurors were not convinced doesn’t sway her — she said jurors had made up their mind before the trial began.
“I trust my husband,” she said. “That’s what the world is about today. People don’t trust anybody. And all these young kids, all they think about is sex.”
Dottie Sandusky, who was a defense witness and did not see others testify, said the accusers’ testimony shouldn’t have been given more credence than her husband’s version of events. He did not take the stand and has declined repeated requests for an interview.
“(His lawyers) felt the trial was going well enough that he did not need to testify,” she said. “Jerry wanted to testify, but they felt he didn’t need to testify.”