By MARK SCOLFORO
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison — effectively a life sentence — in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno’s downfall.
A defiant Sandusky gave a rambling statement in which he denied the allegations and talked about his life in prison and the pain of being away from his family.
Three victims spoke, often fighting back tears. One looked Sandusky in the eyes at times.
The 68-year-old former Penn State assistant coach was found guilty in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, convicted of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Witnesses said Sandusky used the charitable organization he founded for troubled children as his personal hunting ground to find and groom boys to become his victims.
His arrest 11 months ago, and the details that came out during his trial over the summer, transformed Sandusky’s public image from a college coach who had been widely admired for his work with The Second Mile charity into that of a reviled pervert who preyed on the very youngsters who sought his help.
Among the three who spoke Tuesday, a young man who said he was 11 when Sandusky groped him in a shower in 1998 said Sandusky is in denial and should ‘‘stop coming up with excuses.’’
‘‘I’ve been left with deep painful wounds that you caused and had been buried in the garden of my heart for many years,’’ he said.
Another man said he was 13 when, in 2001, Sandusky lured him into a Penn State sauna and then a shower and then forced him to touch the ex-coach.
‘‘I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory,’’ he said. ‘‘Jerry has harmed children, of which I am one of them.’’
Sandusky has consistently maintained his innocence and plans to appeal.
In a three-minute monologue aired Monday night by Penn State Com Radio that used some of the same language as his courtroom statement, Sandusky said he knows in his heart that he did not do what he called ‘‘these alleged disgusting acts’’ and described himself as the victim of a coordinated conspiracy among Penn State, investigators, civil attorneys, the media and others.
His statement in court lasted 15 minutes and his voice cracked as he spoke of missing his loved ones.
Judge John Cleland sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in prison. Under Pennsylvania law, Sandusky cannot be released on parole before the minimum term is up.
‘‘The tragedy of this crime is that it’s a story of betrayal. The most obviously aspect is your betrayal of 10 children,’’ Cleland said before the sentencing. ‘‘I’m not going to sentence you to centuries in prison, although the law will permit that.’’ Still, Cleland said, he expected Sandusky to be in prison for the rest of his life.