Jerry Sandusky's sentence "sends a message" without opening door for appeal, says expert

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, left, arrives for sentencing at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
(CBS) BELLEFONTE, Pa. - By declining to slap Jerry Sandusky with a "crowd-pleasing" 200-plus year sentence, Prof. Jules Epstein, an associate professor at Widener University School of Law, says that Judge John Cleland was likely considering how his ruling would affect a possible appeal in the child sex abuse case.

PICTURES: Jerry Sandusky gets 30-60 years in prison

"This is a judge who is saying, no one is going to accuse me of being impartial or irrational," says Epstein. "Everything he does will be scrutinized on appeal and no one can say this is a judge who went hog wild."

Judge Cleland sentenced Sandusky to 30 to 60 years in prison, effectively a life sentence for the 68-year-old former coach, who would be nearly 100 before he is even eligible to apply for parole.

"Unless he wins an appeal, Jerry Sandusky will leave prison in a box," says Epstein. "That's a pretty heavy message."

Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse for molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Had he imposed the maximum possible punishment for each conviction, Judge Cleland could have sentenced Sandusky to 218 years behind bars.

At Tuesday's hearing, the judge told the former Penn State assistant football coach that "the crime is not just what you did to their bodies. Your crime is what you did to their souls."

After the sentencing hearing at the Center County Courthouse, Sandusky's attorney Joe Amendola told reporters that his client planned to appeal and that one of the issues they would raise was what Amendola said was an inadequate amount of time to prepare their defense.

"Why didn't we have the extra time?" asked Amendola. "That's the real question. That's the question that needs to be answered."

Sandusky was arrested in November 2011 after a grand jury indicted him on dozens of counts of child sex abuse, some occurring on the Penn State campus. His arrest triggered the dismissal of famed Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Two former Penn State administrators are currently under indictment for allegedly lying to the grand jury about what they knew of allegations against Sandusky.

Complete coverage of the Jerry Sandusky trial on

  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for

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