LAPD hears from Pennsylvania state AG, who likens Sandusky case to daily sex assault cases

Linda Kelly

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Pa. State Attorney General Linda Kelly talks about prosecuting the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case at a sexual assault conference Tuesday in Los Angeles.

At a conference Tuesday, Pennsylvania state attorney general Linda Kelly drew parallels between the high-profile Jerry Sandusky child molestation case and local sexual assault cases California detectives and prosecutors investigate daily.

Kelly was the keynote speaker at a sexual assault conference sponsored by the Rape Treatment Center and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Jerry Sandusky, 68, former Pennsylvania State University football coach was convicted last month on 45 criminal charges of sexually abusing boys over a 15-year period while he was at the university and in charge of a nonprofit for at risk youth.

“These are crimes that thrive in darkness. They are fed by fear and threats and shame and secrecy where these predators very carefully and very calculating seek the most vulnerable prey,” Kelly said.

In Santa Ana, police search for a man who kidnapped a 6-year-old girl from her apartment complex and sexually assaulted her at a nearby parking lot her before dropping her back off in her neighborhood. The man lured the girl in by saying he had something for her mom. Authorities believe the suspect had been parked in various spots within the complex before the kidnapping.

Children are more vulnerable than adults said David Lisak, a forensic consultant who presented at Tuesday's conference. He said the majority of child molesters also sexually assault adults, but they focus their attention for periods of time on children because they are easy targets. They often have access to children at home or in the neighborhood.

“At the core what predation is, is the identification of vulnerability and the manipulation and exploitation of that vulnerability,” Lisak said. “And it’s at the core of sexual violence.”

Pennsylvania State Attorney General Linda Kelly said all the victims in the Sandusky case were underprivileged kids—many of whom came from broken homes or foster homes. None of them had a male figure in their life.

In the months leading up to the trial, the Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office did not comment in the case. The defense, Kelly said, talked a lot. She decided her office would not say anything because they wanted the jury, some of whom wore Penn State T-shirts when they were selected, to hear testimony from the victims in what she called “a pure state.”

For a lot of victims, testifying unearths memories of torture that some of them have worked to suppress.

“The state of mind of a victim in these cases is one of the most sensitive, precarious and one of the most important aspects of the case,” Kelly said.

The silence victims hide behind becomes a challenge for prosecutors trying sexual assault cases in court. In sexual assault cases, victims withhold most of the evidence, Lisak said.

“Victims sometimes are going be erratic. They are going to be unreliable, and immediately you are going to discover issues that make them challenging witnesses,” Lisak said. “But these are precisely who predators go after.”

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