Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse after his sentencing in his child sex abuse case in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania in this October 9, 2012, file photo. Credit: Reuters
Ex-Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky testified by remote video at a hearing on Tuesday in an effort to have his pension restored despite his 45 child sex abuse convictions.
Wearing a bulky orange jumpsuit, his hands shackled to a belt at his waist, Sandusky, 69, was the first witness to testify at the hearing before the State Employees' Retirement System in Harrisburg.
He spoke via a video link from a southwestern Pennsylvania prison in an attempt to restore his $4,900-a-month pension. It had been revoked when he was sentenced in October 2012 to 30 to 60 years in prison - a decision that also ended benefits for his wife, Dottie.
Sandusky, who has rarely spoken in public since he was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, approached the pension issue by recalling his days working with legendary coach Joe Paterno, who was fired from his job as a result of the scandal and who died soon after, in January 2012.
"It was my dream to become a head football coach," testified Sandusky, who founded the Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth that he was accused of using to recruit some his victims.
Paterno had been recruited to coach the National Football League's New England Patriots in the 1970s and, Sandusky testified, considered bringing Sandusky with him to the pros.
"He talked to me the evening he was faced with that decision. He ultimately decided he should not go," Sandusky said.
Years later, when Sandusky was told he would not be named Penn State's head coach in the late 1990s, he began exploring retirement options - including forming a football program at Penn State's Altoona, Pennsylvania, campus.
"This looked like an opportunity for me to become a head football coach and maintain some proximity to the Second Mile," he testified.
While he was not a state employee, Sandusky had chosen to participate in the state pension plan at Penn State, which is a "state-related" university that obtains less than 10 percent of its budget from the state.
At the center of the dispute is whether Sandusky was a "de facto" Penn State employee after he began collecting payments following his 1999 retirement, and whether he should therefore be blocked by the Pennsylvania Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act because of his convictions for sexually abusing young boys.