Crime and Justice Featured Investigative

Changing Memories: The Impact of Repressed Recovered Memories in the Sandusky Case

By Frank Parlato

Jerry Sandusky, 79, has been in prison for more than 11 years.
A Pennsylvania jury convicted him of sexually abusing nine boys.
FR is investigating whether he is innocent.

Allegations and Initial Accusations

At the time of his arrest in 2011, after a three-year investigation by the Attorney General’s office, two men, Aaron Fisher and Brett Houtz, alleged sex acts, and four others claimed acts of “grooming.”

Two more victims came forward in time for the trial – alleging sexual assault.

All the men claimed Sandusky abused them when they were boys. None made disclosures of abuse as boys.

PA Acting Attorney General Linda Kelly explained, “It was incredibly difficult for some of them to unearth buried memories of the shocking abuse they suffered.”

All of Sandusky’s victims came from among the thousands of boys who were beneficiaries of his Second Mile charity – which meant they came from financially challenged families.

None of the victims went to the police. The police went to all of them.

Anthony Sassano, from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, led the Sandusky investigation. He testified investigators interviewed 250 former members of the Second Mile charity, and only one claimed to be a victim of Sandusky abuse.

Anthony Sassano

Legal Strategy and Civil Awards

All the victims had the sense to retain civil lawyers who understood that Penn State, where Sandusky had worked as an assistant coach of the college football team, would pay money if Sandusky was convicted.

After Sandusky’s conviction, the Penn State Board of Trustees paid more than $100 million to victims with a philosophy that forbids vetting, investigating, or requiring corroborating evidence, and without retaining an expert to evaluate the memory recovery therapies that enabled victims to recover repressed memories.

All eight victims who testified (and one whose lawyer arranged for him to temporarily go into hiding so as not to testify) got awards from Penn State:

  • Aaron Fisher, $7.5 million
  • Allan Myers, (AKA “Shower Boy”) $6.9 million (did not testify)
  • Jason Simcisko, $7.25 million
  • Brett Swisher-Houtz, $5.5 million
  • Michal Kajak, $8.1 million
  • Zachary Konstas, $1.5 million
  • Dustin Struble, $3.25 million
  • Sabastian Paden, $20 million
  • Ryan Rittmeyer, $5.5 million

The Role of Repressed Recovered Memories

The Sandusky case relied on “recovered repressed memories” (RMM), which is the theory that buried trauma memories are reliably reported following psychotherapy.

As attorney Howard Janet, who represented Zach Konstas (victim #6), explained, victims would “create a bit of a Chinese wall in their minds. They BURY these events that were so painful to them deep in their subconscious.”

Her client, Konstas, recalled enough at trial to testify that Sandusky groomed him, but never sexually abused him.

Penn State awarded Konstas $1.5 million after Sandusky’s conviction.

Zach Konstas, on the right

Aaron Fisher’s Therapeutic Support

The Sandusky case began with Aaron Fisher (victim #1). He had the benefit of a close relationship with his therapist, Mike Gillum. In fact, they wrote a book together after Sandusky was convicted.

Gillum attended meetings with Fisher and police investigators, which is over and beyond what most therapists will do and what investigators allow.

But Gillum believed the human brain forgets bad, terrifying, horrific, awful, abusive things, that trauma “blocks memories” or “buries memories,” and that “memories come back” in a reliable manner through his therapy.

Fisher needed his guidance and moral support for, as Gillum wrote in his book with Fisher: “Emotional signs of trauma, however, can remain locked within the victim’s psyche as they search for the magic bullet to mask their pain.”

It took Fisher more than two years of therapy with Gillum to remember that Sandusky abused him.

At the trial, Fisher told the jury how Gillum “believed something more did happen, and we talked.”

Penn State awarded Fisher $7.5 million.

Aaron Fisher, victim #1, provided a photograph as an answer to his detractors, that speaks 7.5 million words.

The Role of Attorneys in Memory Recovery

Fisher was wise enough to retain attorneys Michael Boni and Slade McLaughlin, who assisted him in recovering millions with his recovered memories. But there is one lawyer who stands above all the rest, the lawyer who represented five of the nine trial victims: Andrew Shubin.

Attorney Andrew Shubin

While Fisher relied on therapist Gillum, Shubin’s therapist of choice was Cindy Lee McNab. Her efforts with Shubin’s other clients resulted in many new memories of Sandusky abuse.

Influence of Legal Counsel on Victims

For instance, police interviewed Jason Simcisko (victim #3) on July 19, 2011. Simcisko said “Sandusky never did anything inappropriate” and “I don’t believe any of this stuff is true and hope he is found not guilty.” After six meetings with Shubin and treatment with Macnab, Simcisko reported “memories” of abuse.

Penn State paid Simcisko $7.25 million.

Jason Simcisko

Memory Recall and Legal Representation

During the first two interviews with police, Victim 7, Dustin Struble did not recall Sandusky abusing him. He thought Sandusky was a great guy. He once wrote, “Jerry Sandusky, has helped me to understand so much about myself. He is such a kind and caring gentleman, and I will never forget him.”

Struble also had the financial fortune to retain Shubin, who got him into therapy with MacNab.

Over a few months, Struble’s memory “improved.” He found succor with another victim, his friend Zach Konstas (#6). The two men talked about how therapy was going.

Dustin Struble

Struble said Konstas “would ask me sort of what happened to me almost—I feel so that he could confide in me. But he had asked me if I remembered anything more, if counseling was helping.”

It helped Struble. But Konstas not so much. Konstas did not recall any new memories between the time he testified at the grand jury and his testimony at trial. Konstas got only $1.5 million.

But Stuble’s memories increased from his grand jury testimony to what he finally testified he remembered at the Sandusky trial.

Struble explained, “That doorway that I had closed has since been reopening more. More things have been coming back and things have changed since that grand jury testimony. Through counseling and different things, I can remember a lot more detail that I had pushed aside than I did at that point.”

He explained how it happened: “Through counseling and through talking about things in my past, different things triggered different memories, and I have had more things come back, and it’s changed a lot about what I can remember today and what I could remember before, because I had everything blocked out.”

When Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan asked Struble why he hadn’t disclosed Sandusky’s abuse to the police during his first or second interrogation, Struble explained: “I had sort of blocked out that part of my life.”

Struble added, “I had sort of pushed into the back of my mind, sort of like closing a door, closing—putting stuff in the attic and closing the door to it. That’s what I feel like I did.”

Penn State awarded Struble $3.25 million, which was more than double what Konstas made.

Dustin Struble drives his new sports car.

Sleek Investigative Process

Brett Swisher-Houtz (victim $4) is an example of how attorneys working with police can help a victim recover memories even without the help of therapists – provided they resort to a police technique of deception to encourage memories of abuse.

On April 21, 2011, police first interviewed Houtz. At that time, the case was weak. Other than Aaron Fisher, they had no victim who remembered sexual assault by Sandusky.

Brett Houtz as a boy with Jerry Sandusky.

Houtz offered hope. He brought his civil attorney Benjamin Andreozzi with him, because his father had advised Houtz that not to do so would be like leaving money at the table.

‘Sexual Abuse Lawyer’ Ben Andreozzi

After interviewing the adult Houtz for some time, he could not recall any instances when Sandusky abused him.

During a break in the interview, State Police Inv. Joseph Leiter forgot he left the recorder running, so we have a rare look at how investigators worked with attorneys in this case.

Outside of Houtz’s presence, Inv. Leiter told Houtz’s attorney Andreozzi that just because Houtz recalled no abuse did not mean he could not be persuaded with proper interviewing methods.

Leiter: “That’s the way it was with the first one (Aaron Fisher). It took months to get this first kid that brought this to our attention. It took months to get him… because it was… well ‘he (Sandusky) would rub my shoulders and then he would do this… it just took repetition and repetition, and then finally he would tell us what happened”…

Attorney Andreozzi: “Can we at some point in time say (lie) to him… ‘listen, we’ve interviewed other kids, other kids have told us that there was intercourse and that they’ve admitted this. Is there anything else that you want to tell us?’”

Inv. Leiter admitted they lie to every witness: “We do that with all the other kids… (we tell them) ‘This is what we’ve found so far, and you do fit the same pattern as all the other ones. That’s the way he (Sandusky) operates, and we know the progression of the way he operates, and the other kids we’ve dealt with have told us that this has happened after this, and did that happen with you?”

Lawyer Andreozzi: “And I need to tell him (that) too. OK.”

By the time Houtz went to trial, he had repressed memory recovery and testified Sandusky abused him in hotel rooms.

He explained how he had failed to tell the police at first. “I have spent, you know, so many years burying this in the back of my head forever.”

Penn State awarded Houtz $5.5 million.

The Role of Defense Attorney Joe Amendola

Without the help of Sandusky’s defense attorney, Joe Amendola, Sandusky might not have been convicted.

Amendola chose to waive Sandusky’s right to a preliminary hearing, where victims could have been questioned about mental health issues, the number and type of interviews, memory-psychotherapy issues, and RRM ideology.

Amendola also chose not to file a motion for a Frye hearing to exclude the “recovered repressed memories” of victims.

It is a good thing for the victims that he did not, since Frye hearings in other cases resulted in the trial judge banning repressed memory testimony because most of the relevant scientific community rejected RMM as junk science and a “pernicious myth” and would have resulted in a competent defense expert explaining that therapist/lawyer interviews can change-morph, distort, and contaminate “memories” as well as the U.S. history of thousands of RRM abuse hysteria-satanic cult hysteria – false memory cases debunked by law enforcement and others.

If Amendola had called for a Frye hearing, which was Sandusky’s right, it is possible there would have been no victims left to testify at trial.

Amendola also chose not to demand and acquire a complete set of all psychotherapy records for the witnesses, with changed memory reports following psychotherapy with Gillum and Macnab.

Defense Attorney Joseph Amendola

Amendola’s Curious Trial Strategy

At the trial, Amendola chose not to call an Investigation Methods expert witness to examine the government’s repetitive interviewing process disclosed by Inv. Leiter in his accidentally recorded discussion.

Amendola also chose not to call a Memory-False Memory-RRM expert witness at the trial, who could have testified that “changing,” “morphing,” alleged “memories” which witnesses claim were “buried,” “blocked” or “dissociated” are not normal memories and are unreliable, according to the vast majority of the relevant scientific community, which rejects the RRM ideology, methods and results.

That memory expert could have explained to the jury the history of thousands of examples of therapist-induced false memories from the “Memory Wars” malpractice litigation, as well as the hundreds of therapist-induced false memories of abuse debunked by Special Agent Ken Lanning’s FBI Task Force.

A Memory-False Memory expert witness might have also explained to the jury that leading, suggestive, repetitive interviewing can change “memories” and produce false “memories.”

Joe Amendola is all smiles as his client, Jerry Sandusky, heads toward a conviction

Legal Decisions and Consequences

It was financially beneficial for the victims that Sandusky’s attorney chose not to do things that other attorneys would do in defense of their clients.

The victims’ “new memories” of abuse were worth millions of dollars, and low-income, troubled young men represented by attorneys Shubin and Andreozzi converted from low-income, troubled young men into millionaires.

Sandusky, who is at Laurel Highlands state prison, will be 80 next month.

Jerry Sandusky walking out of court after a post-conviction hearing in 2019


Several people have been instrumental in uncovering the truth about the Sandusky case, dedicating countless hours to researching, interviewing, and writing about what happened.

In the story above, I made extensive use of work prepared by nationally recognized expert R. Christopher Barden, a lawyer and psychologist, who has researched repressed memories and their use in the Sandusky trial and has said that he would testify at the licensing revocation and/or malpractice hearings, pro bono, of Gillum and Macknab, if there are any held in the future.

The author acknowledges that without the above researchers and writers, who all preceded him in this investigation, he would not have been able to conceivably attempt to investigate the conviction of Jerry Sandusky.