Matt Lauer interviewed Dottie Sandusky Wednesday on the TODAY show. Dottie maintained that her husband Jerry Sandusky is innocent. A jury convicted Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual abuse in 2012. Dottie testified at trial that she never witnessed or heard any abuse occurring in her home, and held to that position during the interview:
“Do I believe him?’’ she told Matt Lauer. “I definitely believe him. Because if I didn’t believe him, when I testified at trial, I could have not said what I said. I would have had to tell the truth.”
She believes the victims’ financial gain was at play.
“I think it was, they were manipulated, and they saw money,’’ she said. “Once lawyers came into the case, they said there was money.”
She also challenged the notion that she was a complicit, weak spouse manipulated by a strong-willed pedophile:
“I’m not a weak spouse,” she replied. “As you know…they call me ‘Sarge’ because Jerry said I kept everybody in line. If they want to say that, let them say that. I know who I am. And I know who Jerry is. And I know he did not do the horrible crimes that he’s convicted of.”
It is difficult to see Dottie’s comments as anything other than delusional. What reason would eight young men have to put themselves out there like that? Set aside the media scrutiny. This occurred in a small town. Many people know who the young men are. It does none of the men any favors to lie for money. It is not just the status of Sandusky at stake. This scandal took down Joe Paterno and damaged Penn State. That alone would cause the young men all kinds of hell before they even experienced any victim blaming.
There was also no guarantee they would get any money, let alone know how much they would receive. It does not make any sense that nearly a dozen young men would lie for no reason at all. It also does not explain how other people knew about and reported the incidents. The latter would suggest that some of the allegations are true, at least to the extent that Sandusky showered with boys.
Filmmaker John Ziegler sat next to Dottie during the interview. He mentioned the showering situation:
“I fully acknowledge, I would not do it in a million years, nor would I recommend anyone do it in a million years, especially in 2014,’’ Ziegler said about the showering. “But that’s not what Jerry Sandusky is in prison for. That’s not why he’s probably going to die in prison and has had his pension taken away. That’s not why Joe Paterno was unjustly fired and three Penn State administrators are facing losing their freedom over this case.”
The showering in and of itself is rather benign. It is a cultural taboo rather than something inherently wrong. As Dottie noted in the interview, men of Sandusky’s generation showered in group showers frequently and nothing was thought of it. However, the circumstances in these cases are different. This was not a situation where Sandusky showered with a group of boys, acting as guardian to make sure they got in, got showered, and got out. This was a man singling out a child and showering alone with that child while (he assumed) no one else was around. That was abnormal even back in Sandusky’s day.
That is not to say there are not some issues with some of the young men’s testimony:
The man known as Victim 6 testified that after he told his mother he had showered with Sandusky in 1998, investigators eavesdropped on a conversation between his mother and Sandusky. He claimed that in that conversation, the boy’s mother said Sandusky would never see her son again, and Sandusky replied that he was sorry and that he wished he were dead. Ziegler disputes that account.
“In the 1998 (case), you said the mother said, ‘You’ll never see my son again,’’’ Ziegler told Lauer. “Well, guess what happened? For 13 years, Jerry Sandusky had a close relationship with her son, and she was well aware of it and acknowledged its existence. Thirteen years later, the boy you’re referencing sends Jerry Sandusky text messages: ‘Happy Father’s Day. I love you. Thank you for being in my life.’ Not one allegation in 13 years after that.”
That is a valid point. It does seem odd to the average person that someone horribly abused by Sandusky would speak to him frequently and send him text messages on Father’s Day. However, it does not seem odd to those informed about how abuse victims relate to their abusers. It could be that this particular boy continued to like and love Sandusky despite what he did. It could also be that the boy was so brainwashed by Sandusky that he continued to send the texts. It could be that the boy was frightened of what would happen if he stopped talking to Sandusky. It could be that the boy felt sorry for Sandusky and was trying to be kind. Or it could the be that nothing at all happened.
We cannot jump to any conclusions based on limited information and without knowing how this person responds to other situations.
Yet even if we assume this particular young man lied or embellished the facts, that would not explain the other accusations. I think the reason Sandusky was convicted was not only because of the weight of the testimony but also the number of accusations. There were simply too many adult men claiming Sandusky abused them for the jury to discount them all as lies.
Lauer pointed this out to the pair:
Lauer noted that Ziegler and Dottie’s alternative — that everyone on the other side of the case has been manipulated or is lying — may be hard for the public to swallow.
“Look, the reality is, I understand exactly what you’re saying,’’ Ziegler said. “People will think that this is insane because they were given a perception of this case that was totally wrong.”
It is not insane, just illogical. What logical reason would eight young men have to lie about being abused by a well-known and beloved coach in a college town? Even if they thought they would get a huge payout from the case, how could they possibly know the amount of money they would get? What reason would law enforcement have to bring down Sandusky, Paterno, and Penn State? How would that benefit the town? How would it benefit them?
It simply makes no sense for everyone on the other side to lie. Some of them, maybe, but not all of them. There is little to be gained from doing that.