By Daniel Kelley
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Convicted child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky maintained his posture of innocence at a hearing on Tuesday to win back his revoked pension, testifying that he was accused of "alleged crimes" by "alleged victims."
The former Penn State assistant football coach spoke via remote video link from a southwestern Pennsylvania prison during a hearing in his effort to have his pension restored, despite his 45 child sex abuse convictions.
Wearing a bulky orange jumpsuit, his hands shackled to a belt at his waist, Sandusky, 69, was the first witness to testify at the hearing before the State Employees' Retirement System in Harrisburg.
His $4,900-a-month pension was revoked when he was sentenced in October 2012 to 30 to 60 years in prison. The decision also ended benefits for his wife, Dottie.
Sandusky has rarely spoken publicly since he was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years.
The bulk of Sandusky's testimony revolved around his 30-year career at Penn State, which began in 1969, and the disgraced coach did not specifically address the pension issue.
As Dottie Sandusky listened in the Harrisburg hearing room, lawyers for the pension system asked Sandusky if he met some of the sex abuse victims while serving as a volunteer football coach at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County.
"Correct," Sandusky replied. "Alleged victims, I would call them."
Lawyers then asked if he disputed that some of the crimes he was convicted of occurred after 2004, the year the Pennsylvania Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act was amended.
"The alleged crimes," Sandusky said. "Yeah. Those were after 2004."
During the testimony monitored by Reuters, which concluded after about three hours, Sandusky recalled working with the legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who was fired as a result of the scandal and died not long after in January 2012.
"It was my dream to become a head football coach," testified Sandusky, who founded the Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth that he was accused of using to recruit some of his victims.
Paterno had been recruited to coach the National Football League's New England Patriots in the 1970s and, Sandusky testified, considered bringing Sandusky with him to the pros.
"He talked to me the evening he was faced with that decision. He ultimately decided he should not go," Sandusky said.
Years later, when Sandusky was told he would not be named head coach at Penn State in the late 1990s, he began exploring retirement options - including forming a football program at the university's smaller campus in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
"This looked like an opportunity for me to become a head football coach and maintain some proximity to the Second Mile," he testified.
While he was not a state employee, Sandusky had chosen to participate in the state pension plan at Penn State, which is a "state-related" university that obtains less than 10 percent of its budget from the state.
At the center of the dispute is whether Sandusky was a "de facto" Penn State employee after he began collecting payments following his retirement in 1999, and whether he should therefore be blocked by the Pennsylvania Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act because he was convicted of sexually abusing young boys.
The hearing examiner asked both sides to submit additional documents and later will submit his decision to the state retirement system, which may accept or reject his finding.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Matthew Lewis and Gunna Dickson)