Wisconsin residents who have followed the trial of Jerry Sandusky learned this week that the former Penn State assistant coach has been sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. The most public sexual abuse trial in recent history has captivated not just criminal defense attorneys, but college football fans and the general public.
While most people would not claim to have a particular interest in sexual abuse cases, the Penn State scandal dominated national headlines for several months, perhaps because its central figure was such a trusted authority. Not only is Penn State a college football powerhouse, but Sandusky was originally a revered leader in the university's program who was thought to have changed the lives of countless youth for the better.
When Sandusky's victims began making public allegations, there was a considerable amount of denial not just within the Penn State football program, but among the university at large and its countless fans. Sandusky had done so much for disadvantaged youth as part of his Second Mile program that it seemed unthinkable to cast him as a sexual predator.
This reaction is rather common when beloved leaders are accused of any crime, let alone a sex offense. But a court case driven by aggressive prosecutors, compelling testimony and evidence -- as well as media coverage of the legal proceedings -- can quickly change the public's opinion, regardless of whether the defendant is guilty. And, as we've discussed in past blog posts, once a defendant's reputation is tarnished, sometimes even an acquittal isn't enough to undo the personal and professional damage.
Those accused of sexual abuse need not stop and consider the risks to their reputation before consulting with a criminal defense attorney. The sooner they act in preparing their defense, the better.
Source: CNN, "Sandusky gets at least 30 years for child sex abuse," Josh Levs and Laura Dolan, Oct. 9, 2012
· Our firm handles sex crimes and many other types of criminal defense cases. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Wisconsin sex crimes defense page.