Sandusky Exhibits Rampant Deceptive Behavior in Costas Interview
The nature of the allegations that former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky molested or had sexual involvement with multiple minors has led many to believe that Sandusky is likely guilty of most, if not all, of those allegations. Our behavioral assessment of Sandusky’s Nov. 14 interview with NBC’s Bob Costas strongly supports that conclusion. What is even more disturbing, however, is that our analysis also suggests that Sandusky’s sexual contact with children isn’t limited to those cases alleged in the indictment. He displays a very high volume of deceptive indicators in the interview, and his consistent failure to provide denials to direct questions regarding the matter is particularly noteworthy.
What follows is the complete transcript of the interview, which Costas conducted with Sandusky by phone. It includes a segment with Sandusky’s attorney, Joseph Amendola, who was in the studio with Costas for his portion of the interview. Our behavioral analysis is appended to Sandusky’s responses.
Costas: Mr. Sandusky, there’s a 40-count indictment, the grand jury report contains specific detail, there are multiple accusers, multiple eye-witnesses to various aspects of the abuse. A reasonable person says, “Where there’s this much smoke, there must be plenty of fire.” What do you say?
Sandusky: I say that I am innocent of those charges.
ANALYSIS: In his opening question, Costas in essence is telling Sandusky that he considers the allegations in the indictment to be true, which means to Sandusky that Costas believes he must have molested the children in question. Instead of directly denying those allegations, Sandusky says, “I’m innocent of those charges.” In behavioral analysis, such a statement is termed a “false denial.” A more direct denial would have been, “I never molested any of those kids.” Sandusky’s statement relates to a legal outcome rather than serving as a denial that he molested the children. As we all know, there have been numerous cases in which guilty people have been found innocent when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Like many people who are deceptive, Sandusky may be having a hard time telling the more direct lie, “I didn’t do it.” If he knows he molested the children, it’s easier for him to make the more indirect statement that he’s “innocent,” perhaps even with the hope that a less-than-savvy jury might reach that verdict
Costas: Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?
Sandusky: Well, I could say that, you know, I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids, I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their leg without intent of sexual contact. But, um, so if you look at it that way, there are things that would be accurate.
ANALYSIS: Apparently finding that Sandusky’s previous response lacks credibility, Costas challenges him to determine whether he’s saying or implying that nothing in the indictment is true. Sandusky’s response contains a number of deceptive behaviors, and also appears to contain a significant unintended message regarding his culpability in the matter. When Sandusky begins his response with, “Well I could say that, you know, I have done some of those things,” the statement likely reflects his knowledge that most, if not all, of the allegations in the indictment are true, making it psychologically difficult to deny everything. Thinking that he will have to make some admissions, probably knowing there is significant evidence to support the allegations in the indictment, he probably believes he is simply admitting to behavior that may be questionable, but is not illegal. In reality, this opening statement in his response strongly suggests otherwise. The potential unintended message identified here is that he did molest the children. That, coupled with his admissions that he showered with them and touched them, is the equivalent of placing Sandusky at the scene of the crime. From a behavioral standpoint, the interview already is not going well for Sandusky.
Costas: Are you denying that you had any inappropriate sexual contact with any of these underage boys?
Sandusky: Yes I am.
ANALYSIS: Costas appears to have the best of intentions by continuing to drill down rather than let Sandusky off the hook. Unfortunately, Costas incorporates the language of a direct denial into his question, which lets Sandusky off the hook to a degree, because he only has to agree with the denial rather than having to actually say it. From a behavior-assessment standpoint it would have been much more interesting if Costas had asked, “What sexual contact or involvement did you have with these kids?” If Sandusky had once again failed to respond with a direct denial, it would have been very damning in terms of his culpability.
Costas: Never touched their genitals? Never engaged in oral sex?
Again, kudos to Costas for his persistence in his efforts to confirm inappropriate sexual contact between Sandusky and the children. However, he again lets Sandusky off the hook to a degree by asking a negative question, which leaves Sandusky with no option but to agree. In fairness, Costas may have switched from the information-collection mode to an approach that would lock Sandusky into a story that sounds ludicrous to the public.
Costas: What about Mike McQueary, the grad assistant who in 2002 walked into the shower where he says, in specific detail, that you were forcibly raping a boy who appeared to be 10 or 11 years old? That his hands were up against the shower wall and he heard rhythmic “slap, slap, slap, slapping” sounds – and he described that as a rape?
Sandusky: I would say that that’s false.
ANALYSIS: Sandusky’s short response is extremely deceptive. His failure once again to express a direct denial, perhaps something to the effect of, “I didn’t rape the boy,” or even “I didn’t have any sexual contact with him," coupled with his statement, “I would say that that’s false,” leaves little doubt that the incident occurred just as McQueary described it. Sandusky doesn’t claim that McQueary’s allegation is actually false, or that the incident didn’t happen. Instead, he goes only so far as to state what he “would say” in response to the allegation. Collectively, these two deceptive indicators clearly suggest that the rape alleged by McQueary most likely took place.
Costas: What would be his motive to lie?
Sandusky: You’d have to ask him that.
ANALYSIS: Sandusky’s response here contains two significant deceptive indicators. First is his reluctance to address the question; second is his failure to deny any sexual involvement with the boy. This behavior strongly reinforces our analysis of Sandusky’s response to the previous question.
Costas: What did happen in the shower the night that Mike McQueary happened upon you and the young boy?
Sandusky: Okay, we were showering and horsing around and he actually turned all the showers on and was actually sliding across the floor and, as I recall, possibly like snapping a towel in horseplay.
ANALYSIS: Sandusky’s exhibition of clusters of deceptive behavior continues here. In this exchange, Sandusky uses qualifiers (“actually” and “possibly”). He also resorts to selective memory by saying, “as I recall.” This type of statement is a psychological alibi. By stating or implying that he doesn’t remember, Sandusky is trying to make it difficult for the interviewer to continue his pursuit of the truth.
Costas: In 1998 a mother confronts you about taking a shower with her son and inappropriately touching him. Two detectives eavesdropped on her conversations with you and you admit that “maybe your private parts touched her son.” What happened there?
Sandusky: Well, I can’t exactly recall what was said there. In terms of what I did say was that if he felt that way, then I was wrong.
ANALYSIS: In this exchange, Sandusky is acknowledging in a roundabout way that he did have sexual contact with the youth in question, and that the contact was of a nature that was “wrong.” Also, his selective memory (“Well, I can’t exactly recall what was said there”) is a behavioral ploy to avoid having to provide incriminating specifics.
Costas: During one of those conversations you said, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness,” speaking now with the mother, “I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.” A guy falsely accused or a guy whose actions have been misinterpreted doesn’t respond that way, does he?
Sandusky: I don’t know. I didn’t say, to my recollection, that I wish I were dead. I was hopeful that we could reconcile things.
ANALYSIS: With this question, Costas is saying to Sandusky that his responses, and the behavior associated with those responses, indicate that he is guilty of the allegations against him. Instead of offering a blanket denial, Sandusky only takes issue with one small point made by Costas by claiming that he didn’t recollect saying, “I wish I were dead.” His continued failure to directly and forcefully deny the allegations is very disturbing from a behavioral point of view, and continues to indicate the strong probability that Sandusky is guilty of the charges outlined in the indictment.
Costas: Shortly after that in 2000 a janitor said that he saw you performing oral sex on a young boy in the showers in the Penn State locker facility. Did that happen?
ANALYSIS: Interestingly, now that Costas has pointed out to Sandusky that his behavior and responses lack credibility, Sandusky appears to recognize the need to be more direct. In response to a specific allegation. He therefore simply says, “No.” Without realizing it, Costas may have significantly and artificially altered Sandusky’s behavior by alerting him to the unacceptability of his responses.
Costas: How could somebody think they saw something as extreme and shocking as that when it hadn’t occurred, and what would possibly be their motivation to fabricate it?
Sandusky: You’d have to ask them.
ANALYSIS: Costas continues his persistence, and refuses to accept Sandusky’s “No” for an answer. When challenged on the issue raised in the previous question, Sandusky reverts back to his habit of failing to make any sort of denial, and instead tries to evade Costas by pointing him toward the janitor. Collectively, Sandusky’s responses on this issue strongly indicate he is also likely culpable in this incident, as well.
Costas: It seems that if all of these accusations are false, you are the unluckiest and most persecuted man that any of us has ever heard about.
Sandusky: I don’t know what you want me to say. I don’t think that these have been the best days of my life.
ANALYSIS: Apparently frustrated by Sandusky’s less-than-credible responses in the face of what appears to be very credible evidence, Costas is sarcastic in articulating his suspicions. Even in the face of such blatant sarcasm, Sandusky again fails to specifically deny molesting any of the children. He also makes what is probably a very truthful statement when he says, “I don’t think that these have been the best days of my life.” If Sandusky is guilty of the allegations levied against him, as his behavior very strongly suggests, then he has good reason to feel that these are not his “best days.”
Costas (narrating): Sandusky’s attorney Joseph Amendola insists the charges filed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania listing eight victims will not hold up.
Costas: You said a few days ago, “Much more is going to come out in our defense.” In broad terms, what?
Amendola: We expect we’re going to have a number of kids – now how many of those so-called eight kids we’re not sure – but we anticipate we’re going to have at least several of those kids come forward and say this never happened, this is me, this is the allegation, and it never occurred. In fact, one of the toughest allegations – the McQueary allegations – what McQueary said he saw, we have information that that child says that never happened. Now grown up.
Costas: Until now we were told that that alleged victim could not be identified. You have identified him?
Amendola: We think we have.
Costas: So you found him, the Commonwealth has not?
Amendola: Yeah. Interesting, isn’t it?
Costas: Would you allow your own children to be alone with your client?
Amendola: Absolutely. I believe in Jerry’s innocence. Quite honestly Bob, that’s why I’m involved in the case.
Costas: You believe in his innocence? Not just that you can mitigate his guilt, you believe in his innocence.
Amendola: I believe in his innocence.
Costas (narrating): Meanwhile, the man who helped Joe Paterno win national championships is now at the center of a scandal that’s brought his old boss down.
Costas: To your knowledge, did Joe Paterno have any information regarding objectionable activities on your part prior to that report in 2002?
Sandusky: I can’t totally answer that question. My answer would be, “No.”
ANALYSIS: Sandusky’s qualified statement that he “can’t totally answer that question” indicates there is indeed information regarding “objectionable activities” that Sandusky believes Paterno was aware of prior to 2002.
Costas: Did Joe Paterno at any time ever speak to you directly about your behavior?
Costas: He never asked you about what you might have done?
Costas: He never asked you if you needed help, if you needed counseling?
Costas: Never expressed disapproval of any kind?
ANALYSIS: Sandusky did not exhibit any deceptive indicators in the exchange related to whether or not Paterno spoke to him directly about any of his alleged objectionable behavior.
Costas: How do you feel about what has happened to Penn State and to Joe Paterno and to the Penn State football program and your part in it?
Sandusky: How would think that I would feel about a university that I attended, about people that I’ve worked with, about people that I care so much about? How do you think that I would feel about it? I feel horrible.
Costas: You feel horrible. Do you feel culpable?
Sandusky: I’m not sure I know what you mean.
ANALYSIS: Costas has been very persistent in his pursuit of the truth, and once again questions Sandusky regarding his culpability. Sandusky again fails to deny any culpability, and even expresses a lack of understanding of the question. His behavior continues to point to his likely culpability.
Costas: Do you feel guilty? Do you feel as if it’s your fault?
Sandusky: No, I don’t think it’s my fault. I obviously played a part in this.
ANALYSIS: In response to the question of whether this matter is his fault, Sandusky makes inconsistent statements. First, he makes the qualified statement, “I don’t think it’s my fault.” Then he appears to reverse himself by saying, ”I obviously played a part in this.” The inconsistency likely reflects Sandusky’s awareness that these allegations are true, and he is finding it very difficult to position himself as someone who hasn’t done anything wrong.
Costas: How would you define the part you played? What are you willing to concede that you’ve done that was wrong and that you wish you had not done?
Sandusky: Well, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.
Costas: That’s it?
Sandusky: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s what hits me the most.
ANALYSIS: When asked what wrongdoing he is willing to concede to, Sandusky admits that he “shouldn’t have showered with those kids.” Again, that places him at the equivalent of the crime scene. This, coupled with the extremely high volume of deceptive indicators, suggests that there is much more to the story than has surfaced to date.
Costas: Are you a pedophile?
ANALYSIS: Although there are no deceptive behaviors exhibited here, it is important to note that Costas has posed an opinion question to Sandusky, who may have rationalized his behavior to be something less than what meets the threshold of being a pedophile.
Costas: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?
Sandusky: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys? Sexually attracted? No. You know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no, I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.
ANALYSIS: Sandusky exhibited significant deceptive behavior in response to this question. He repeats the question twice in what appears to be an attempt to buy himself some time so that he can formulate what he thinks might be an acceptable response.
Costas: Obviously you are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and you’ll receive a vigorous defense. On the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of information out there, and fair-minded, common-sense people have concluded that you are guilty of monstrous acts. And they are particularly unforgiving with the type of crimes that have been alleged here. And so, millions of Americans who didn’t know Jerry Sandusky’s name until a week ago now regard you not only as a criminal, but -- I say this I think in a considered way -- but as some sort of monster. How do you respond to them?
Sandusky: I don’t know what I can say or what I could say that would make anybody feel any different now. I would just say that if somehow people could hang on until my attorney has a chance to fight, you know, for my innocence, that’s about all I could ask right now. You know, obviously it’s a huge challenge.
ANALYSIS: Even in the face of being labeled a “monster,” Sandusky can’t seem to muster the gumption to deny the extraordinarily serious allegations made against him. In addition, his statement, “I don’t know what I can say or what I could say that would make anybody feel different now,” could well reflect Sandusky’s inevitable realization that it’s very difficult to get people to believe a lie. That’s especially the case when it involves something as heinous as the allegations he will have to face in the months, and perhaps years, ahead.