MyStoryYourStory: Who would believe a kid?

"Sandusky quietly stalked this idyllic, Rockwellian community, preying on its most susceptible boys…at-risk kids, the poor, the fatherless, the troubled or even simply the bored." – Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports

When the jury was selected for the trial of Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse charges, I had my doubts. Not about Sandusky. Not in the least bit.

You see, the 12 men and women who were responsible for deciding if the former defensive coordinator for Penn State University (PSU) was guilty are common folk inextricably associated with Penn State in one way or another.

Each one has close ties to the community where Sandusky lived and worked; where he preyed upon young helpless and vulnerable boys.

Juror 1: A local Wal-Mart employee.

Juror 2: A young man who will be studying automotive technology this fall.

Juror 3: A Nittnay Lion season ticket holder since the 1970s, whose husband is a physician in the same medical group where key witness John McQueary's father worked.

Juror 4: An engineer who is married to a librarian.

Juror 5: A Bellefonte High School physics and chemistry teacher with a bachelor's and master's degrees from Penn State.

Juror 6: A local department store clerk.

Juror 7: A Penn State junior employed part-time in PSU's sports facility. His cousin played on the Penn State football team and his mom works for the State College Area School District.

Juror 8: A retired Penn State soil science professor for 37 years.

Juror 9: A retired woman in her 70s.

Juror 10: An administrative assistant in Penn State's engineering department.

Juror 11: A former instructor at Penn State, whose husband is a media specialist at Penn State.

Juror 12: A Penn State professor for 24 years.

Football fans, employees, graduates, relatives, all ingrained members of the Penn State family tree. Could this jury be objective? Would jury members  side with the power and prestige that Penn State wields throughout the winding canons and ancient mountain peaks of Happy Valley?

"We're in Centre County. We're in rural Pennsylvania," Judge John Cleland said at one point in the proceedings. "There are connections that cannot be avoided."

Centre County is smack dab in the heart of the Keystone State. I know it well. I was born not far from Penn State, and as a kid routinely went on outings to the campus with my family. I am a member and I feel I belong.

This is not an affluent area. Far from it. Almost entirely forested with maple, oak, beech, birch, hickory and chestnut trees, Pennsylvania is mainly rural, littered with hundreds of former coal mining towns still struggling to survive.

In storied State College, population 51,457, where Penn State is situated, the number of people living below the poverty line is at 46.9 percent, far greater than the national percentage of 12.40 percent.

While this area's natural beauty, lush deeply wooded forests resonate promise, the reality is that most people, especially kids, are stuck here in a hopeless, vicious cycle of vulnerability. No perceived way out.

For generations, PSU has served as a type of magic kingdom, a beacon of light, providing jobs, education and a way forward.

Around the bend from PSU in my tiny hometown of Phillipsburg, some 25 percent of the working population is employed at Penn State. PSU is their bread and butter.

When I heard the news of a guilty verdict, I wept. My concern that the jury members would be partial to the powerful currency of Penn State was exonerated. Their need to protect their livelihoods in the same way Victim #4 said he compartmentalized Sandusky's sexual abuse against him was set aside.

In spite of Sandusky's heinous acts, I am proud of my roots and of the jury who represented right versus wrong. Proud of their courage to confront power and proud of their strength to take a stand against a well-known and well-liked coach. The same man who turned out to be a predator-monster in the neighborhood.

After the nearly eight-minute verdict was read, Judge John Cleland said, "Mr. Sandusky, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers."

Outside the courthouse, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said, "One of the recurring themes of the witness' testimony, which came from the voices of the victims themselves…was, 'Who would believe a kid?' And the answer to that question is we here in Bellefonte, PA, would believe a kid. A jury of 12 people in Bellefonte, PA, most definitely would and did believe a kid."

Justice has been served. I rest my case.

2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at my-story-your-story@blogspot.com and find her on FaceBook.

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