Jerry Sandusky, the convicted child molester and former Penn State assistant football coach, appeared in court today to argue for the restoration of his state pension. Testifying in court for nearly three hours via a video feed from Greene State Prison, this is the first public statement Sandusky has made since October 2012, when he was sentenced for 45 counts related to the sexual abuse of young boys, many of whom were involved with his charity for at-risk youth.
In the video, Sandusky’s wrists are cuffed to his waist and he is clad in an orange prison jumpsuit. Besides Sandusky, the only witnesses present at the hearing was a state retirement benefits employee and Jerry Sandusky’s wife, Dottie.
Sandusky was sentenced to 30 – 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. He allegedly used his charity, the Second Mile, to recruit and identify his victims. He has continually maintained his innocence and did so during the hearing today, referring to his “alleged” crimes and his “alleged” victims, and has an appeal pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
After his conviction, the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System revoked his pension, which was set at $4900 a month, for violating the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act. With Sandusky’s benefits revoked, the benefits for his wife, Dottie, ended as well. Today’s hearing is an attempt by Jerry Sandusky to have his Penn State pension restored.
Although he retired from his position at Penn State in 1999 in order to take advantage of an early retirement benefit, he was immediately rehired on a temporary basis, under which he worked one more year. At issue is whether the fact that although he wasn’t a state employee when he retired in June 1999, he was receiving a pension due to Penn State receiving a small portion of its funding from the state, therefore being a “state-related” institution. Sandusky himself elected to receive the state-sponsored pension benefit while he was employed at Penn State.
During the hearing, Jerry Sandusky testified that after his retirement in 1999 he received no compensation from Penn State and never held himself out to be Penn State employee. Although documents were submitted during the hearing that outlined dozens of payments made to him by Penn State after 1999, Sandusky refused to acknowledge the bulk of them. The ones he did admit to were defended by his attorney, Charles Benjamin, as payments received for travel reimbursement and speaking fees.
Benjamin is arguing that Sandusky earned his pension before an amendment to the state law was passed in 2004. The amendment included conviction for crimes of indecent assault as fair cause for pension revocation. Benjamin’s argument is that at the time of his conviction, Sandusky was not a Penn State employee and that the amendment therefore does not apply in his case.
A decision on the case will likely take months. If the court examiner finds against Jerry Sandusky and does not restore his Penn State pension, he will have the right to appeal his claim in Commonwealth Court.
By Jennifer Pfalz