After less than 21 hours of deliberation, jurors in Bellefonte, Pa. have found former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky guilty on 45 of 48 felony and misdemeanor counts of molesting and raping 10 young boys over the course of 15 years.
The charges included 26 felonies, 15 of those being first-degree felonies, and 22 misdemeanors. First-degree felonies are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Nine of the twelve jurors have ties to the Penn State community. Sandusky maintained his innocence throughout the entire trial, but Sandusky’s lawyer said on Friday he’d be shocked and “die of a heart attack” if his client were acquitted on all counts.
The scandal, dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the worst college sports scandal of all time, rocked the university community across America with graphic and appalling details of tickle fights, “soap battles” in the shower, and love letters before escalating to Sandusky’s own adopted son preparing to testify.
Sandusky was immediately taken into custody to begin his prison sentence, a minimum of 60 years.
“We were attempting to climb Mount Everest from the bottom, and we obviously didn’t make it,” said Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s defense attorney. He confirmed that the defense will be seeking an appeal, based on trial issues and evidentiary issues.
“Does [45 of 48 counts found guilty] prove to me my client is sick? No. There are lots of people sitting in jail who are innocent,” Amendola said. “I believe the jury acted genuinely and in good faith. I don’t have any problem with the jury’s verdict. We had a good jury.”
NBC News correspondent Ron Allen described the tone in Bellefonte as one of bittersweet relief, with the impression that people just want the whole thing to be over. But the ordeal will haunt Penn State and the victims for some time to come. NBC News National Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff, who has followed the story since it first broke last November, will continue to follow the ongoing investigations into high-ranking officials, including Penn State president Graham Spanier and several administrators at Second Mile. He noted the increased likelihood of more victims coming forward.
Linda Kelly, Pennsylvania Attorney General, thanked the prosecution team for executing justice and offered “thanks to all the young men who came forward to bravely testify during this trial and to finally put a stop to all the crimes that have been committed by this defendant…most of us cannot fully comprehend what they endured while testifying in that packed courtroom.”