By Nabil K. Mark
BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Shortly after he arrived at the courthouse to learn the verdict of a jury weighing the 48 child sex abuse charges lodged against him, Jerry Sandusky's attorney said he attempted to prepare his client for the almost certain prospect that he would not be going home.
Attorney Joe Amendola said he told the former Penn State University assistant football coach, while the two waited to be ushered into a packed courtroom late Friday night, that it was "more than likely'' that the 68-year-old defendant - once celebrated for his collegiate football coaching prowess and nationally acclaimed for his role in founding a charity for troubled children - would be convicted on at least some of the criminal counts.
Despite those warnings, Sandusky's face appeared to turn blank as a cascade of guilty verdicts - 45 in all - were read by the jury foreman, standing only a few yards away.
As the prosecution's overwhelming victory began to wash over the courtroom gallery, one of the coach's victims who offered wrenching testimony of Sandusky's abuse during the seven-day trial wept quietly.
On the other side of the room, where Sandusky's wife, Dottie, sat with her family, each pronouncement of "guilty'' seemed to land like a hammer.
When it was over, Sandusky, offering a slight wave to his wife, was ushered out of the courtroom in the custody of sheriff's deputies to begin what his attorney said will likely be a life prison sentence.
Judge John Cleland, who told Sandusky that he had been "convicted by a jury of your peers,'' said formal sentencing would take place in 90 days.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than 20 hours over the course of two days before reaching the decisions that triggered a thunderous celebration outside, where hundreds of spectators had gathered on the century-old courthouse steps. Some of them, accompanied by their children, waved homemade signs expressing their appreciation for a jury that included eight members who had deep ties to either Penn State or were familiar with some of the witnesses in the case.
The reaction was similar in nearby State College, the home of Penn State University and a powerful football program that Sandusky helped build.
An overflow crowd at Bill Pickle's tap room in downtown State College erupted in cheers with the announcement that Sandusky had been found guilty. Patrons had gathered around the bar's five TV sets, all of which were tuned to the cable news broadcast.
Outside, the usually bustling campus town was relatively quiet, with the first summer school session having just ended and many students back home.
Penn State graduate Thomas Wardrop, 22, said, "For both Penn State and State College it's important to have closure to an event that brought so much negative light.
"Now that we have reached this step," he said, "we can begin to address the issues that preceded this and build upon it both as a college and a community to improve and make sure that things like these don't happen again."
Jerry Sandusky is shown in this booking photo released early Saturday morning by the Centre County Correctional Facility in Bellefonte, Pa.
Audrey Leonard, 22, of Oakton, Va., who graduated last month, said: "With everything that this man has put the community, college and especially the victims through - I think any other verdict would be unfathomable."
In a statement released after the verdict was announced, the university said it wants to move quickly to see that victims in the case are compensated.
"Now that the jury has spoken, the university wants to continue that dialogue and do its part to help victims continue their path forward," it said. "To that end, the university plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky's abuse to participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr. Sandusky's conduct.
"The purpose of the program is simple - the university wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the university."
Addressing the crowd gathered on the Bellefonte courthouse square, Amendola said that his client's attempt to "climb Mount Everest'' had failed. "We just didn't make it,'' Amendola said.
"There was a tidal wave of public opinion against Jerry Sandusky."
Amendola, however, was angrily shouted down by the crowd when he suggested that his client may have been wrongly convicted. "There are a lot of people sitting in jails around the country who are innocent,'' the attorney said, adding that Sandusky would appeal.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, surrounded by the prosecution team, described Sandusky as a "serial child predator who committed horrific acts.''
"Now,'' Kelly said, "he is being held accountable for his crimes."
Kelly said the verdicts represented an "overwhelming'' affirmation for the eight victims who testified at trial and the witnesses who described abuse against two other victims who have never been found by investigators.
"Most of us can not comprehend what they have endured," she said. "We hope our search for justice helps the victims and others."
An attorney who represents one of Sandusky's victims who testified during the trial said that his client is "grateful."
"He is gratified that there are people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who took this seriously," attorney Tom Kline said. "This has been very, very difficult for him. There is something deep in his soul that has suffered an horrific injury."
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