A former Penn State football assistant coach charged with sexually abusing eight boys in a scandal that has rocked the university said Monday that there was no abuse and that any activities in a campus shower with a boy were just horseplay, not molestation.
In a telephone interview Monday night on NBC News' "Rock Center," Bob Costas asked Jerry Sandusky if he's a pedophile and Sandusky responded, "No."
Sandusky, once considered veteran coach Joe Paterno's heir apparent, was arrested more than a week ago and is charged with sexually abusing eight boys, some on Penn State property, over a 15-year span.
"I am innocent of those charges," the 67-year-old Sandusky said. "… I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."
Asked whether he was sexually attracted to underaged boys, he said "Sexually attracted, no. I enjoy young people, I love to be around them, but, no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys."
Asked if there was anything he had done wrong, Sandusky said, "I shouldn't have showered with those kids."
Athletic director Tim Curley and Penn State vice-president Gary Schultz are charged with perjury but maintain their innocence. Paterno and president Graham Spanier were ousted from their jobs for not doing enough after Sandusky was accused of assaulting a young boy in the showers of the campus football complex in 2002. Paterno is not the target of any legal investigation, but he has conceded he should have done more. Spanier, who remains a tenured member of the faculty, has said he would have reported a crime if he'd suspected one had been committed.
The interview with Costas was Sandusky's first public comment on the charges. He had previously maintained his innocence through his lawyer, Joe Amendola.
A spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly declined to comment on the interview, citing the active investigation.
Sandusky's remarks came the same night that Amendola, told CNN that his client was just behaving like "a jock."
"Jerry Sandusky is a big overgrown kid," Amendola said. "He's a jock, and for anybody who's ever played sports, you get showers after you work out."
Wide receivers coach Mike McQueary told a grand jury that in March 2001 when he was a graduate assistant, he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy about 10 years old in a shower at the Nittany Lions' practice centre. McQueary did not go to police but instead told Paterno, Curley and Schultz, although it is unclear how detailed a description he gave. Schultz, in turn, notified Spanier.
Sandusky told NBC that only "horseplay" was involved.
"We were showering and horsing around, and he actually turned all the showers on and was actually sliding across the floor, and we were, as I recall, possibly like snapping a towel — horseplay," he said.
Amendola accused the attorney general's office of having "thrown everything they can throw up against the wall." He said some of the allegations, such as putting a hand on a boy's knee, do not constitute criminal conduct and other cases include no direct complaint by the boy.
"They have other people who are saying they saw something, but they don't have actual people saying, 'This is what Jerry did to me," Amendola said. "We're working to find those people, and when the time comes, and if we are able to do that, we think this whole case will change dramatically."
The Associated Press has made several efforts to reach Sandusky by phone and through Amendola, but messages haven't been returned. The AP also knocked on Sandusky's door and left messages at least three times over the past week.
When Sandusky retired in 1999, at just 55, he cited his desire to devote more time to The Second Mile, a charity he founded in 1977 to help at-risk kids. According to the grand jury report, however, Sandusky was a sexual predator who used the charity and his Penn State connections to prey on young boys.
Though he was not particularly close with Paterno, he remained a familiar sight around the Penn State football complex. He was given an office in the East Area Locker building, across the street from the football building, as part of his retirement package, and would take Second Mile kids around the football facilities.
The Sandusky interview came on the day when it was announced the president of The Second Mile had resigned. Jack Raykovitz, a practicing psychologist who had led the group for 28 years, said he hoped his resignation, accepted Sunday, would help restore faith in the group's mission. The Second Mile also announced it had hired Philadelphia's longtime district attorney as its new general counsel.
Separately, the Big Ten has decided to take Paterno's name off its championship trophy. League commissioner Jim Delany said that it is "inappropriate" to keep Paterno's name on the trophy that will be awarded Dec. 3 to the winner of the conference's first title game.
The trophy had been named the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy. Paterno had more wins, 409, than any other major college coach while football pioneer Amos Alonzo Stagg won 319 games in 57 years at the University of Chicago.
The trophy will now be called the Stagg Championship Trophy.