- Associated Press - Monday, June 11, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky’s trial in the Penn State scandal opened in graphic fashion Monday with the first witness testifying that the retired coach molested him in the locker-room showers and in hotels while trying to ensure his silence with gifts and trips to bowl games.

The man, now 28 and dubbed Victim 4 in court papers, left nothing to the imagination as he told the jury about the abuse he said he endured for five years, beginning when he was a teenager in the late 1990s.

“I’ve denied it forever,” he testified, looking straight at the prosecutor as Mr. Sandusky sat motionless nearby.

Mr. Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years. The former assistant football coach has denied the allegations. His arrest last year shamed the university and led to the ouster of beloved Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and Penn State’s president, Graham Spanier.

In opening statements, prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III told the jury that Mr. Sandusky was a “predatory pedophile” who methodically used his youth charity, the Second Mile, to zero in on fatherless children or those with unstable home lives, plied them with gifts and took advantage of them sexually.

Sandusky lawyer Joe Amendola countered that the case is flimsy and that some of the accusers apparently intend to sue and have a financial stake in the case - a preview of the battle to come as the defense tries to undermine the credibility of the young men upon whom the case rests.

Until Monday, none of them had testified publicly, and their identities were shielded. The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes.

Victim 4 spoke calmly and firmly under questioning by the prosecutor.

The man said he met Sandusky through the Second Mile and that they began showering together in 1997. What began as “soap battles” quickly progressed to oral sex and other contact, the accuser said, adding that he was 90 or 100 pounds and powerless to resist the advances of the much larger man.

The witness said Mr. Sandusky occasionally sent him “creepy love letters.”

One letter, shown on a video screen in court, was handwritten on Penn State letterhead and signed “Jerry.” It read: “I know that I have made my share of mistakes. However I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart.”

Eventually, as the man got older and acquired a girlfriend, he became “basically sick of what was happening to me” and distanced himself from Mr. Sandusky. They last spoke in 2002.

Under cross-examination by Mr. Amendola, the man expressed regret for not coming forward earlier, saying: “I feel if I just said something back then … . I feel responsible for what happened to other victims.” He said he had spent years “burying this in the back of my head.”

During his opening statement, Mr. Amendola said Mr. Sandusky’s showering with children was innocuous and part of his upbringing.

Mr. Amendola also said that at least six of the alleged victims have civil lawyers, adding: “These young men had a financial interest in this case and pursuing this case.”