Attorneys for The Second Mile, the nonprofit founded by suspected child molester Jerry Sandusky, went to court Monday trying to head off an attempt to freeze the agency's millions of dollars of assets.
They asked the court to dismiss a petition filed by attorneys who said they represent one of Mr. Sandusky's victims, seeking an order that prohibits The Second Mile from transferring, selling or otherwise disposing of its assets.
Such an order "would destroy [The Second Mile's] lawful right to manage its affairs" and "strikes fundamentally at TSM's ability to conduct its operations and use its assets to serve its charitable mission," said the filing by lawyers Howard A. Rosenthal and Patrick J. Doran of Archer & Greiner.
The Philadelphia firm was hired by The Second Mile after the charges against Mr. Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, were made public this month. He is charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight children whom he met through his work with the nonprofit.
The filing asserted that any case dealing with the organization's assets must be heard in Orphans' Court in Centre County, where The Second Mile is based, not Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court, where the case currently resides.
Two lawyers filed suit in Philadelphia County on Wednesday on behalf of "John Doe #4," who they said was a victim of several years of severe sexual assaults by Mr. Sandusky.
The lawyers, Benjamin Andreozzi of Harrisburg and Jeffrey Fritz of Philadelphia, cited recent public statements by The Second Mile's acting president and CEO, David Woodle, that the nonprofit might disband or transfer its assets to another organization.
They said they want the assets, reported to be nearly $9 million, kept available to pay damages to victims who file civil lawsuits against the organization.
In their court petition, they said at least 11 alleged victims of abuse have come forward and will likely pursue civil litigation "against The Second Mile and other persons and organizations who provided access for Sandusky to sexually assault children."
"John Doe #4" intends to seek damages "based upon The Second Mile's negligence and failure to report known sexual abuse of children," the filing said.
"The Second Mile will likely be without insurance or be without adequate insurance coverage for civil actions asserted against it considering the number of victims, the severity of the harm and ... exclusions likely to exist in The Second Mile's insurance policies," it said.
The Second Mile's attorneys called the filing "pure speculation" and deficient in several respects. They said the plaintiff has not filed any claim for damages yet and cannot prove that the organization "has engaged in any conduct having the effect of [impermissibly] dissipating its assets. As such, plaintiff's harm is speculative," they wrote.
"Any sexual abuse suffered by plaintiff or any other victim, especially children, is a tragedy of unspeakable depth," their filing said. "But the assertion that such abuse might have occurred, and the claim that a charitable organization's negligence may have proximately contributed to such abuse, does not warrant the extraordinary relief plaintiff seeks here."
According to a grand jury presentment, Victim 4 was a Second Mile participant who was singled out by Mr. Sandusky in 1996 or 1997 while 12 or 13 years old. He was repeatedly subjected to sex assaults on the Penn State campus, in football buildings, at Toftrees golf resort where the football team stayed before home games and during trips to football bowl games.
The presentment accuses Mr. Sandusky of threatening to send the victim home from a trip to the Alamo Bowl when the boy resisted his advances.
In another development Monday, The Second Mile issued a statement asking its donors to direct their contributions to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
"Our focus remains on the victims. Children who suffer sexual abuse face unique and formidable challenges, as do their families. The events reported over the past few weeks have saddened and horrified us; we are determined to do all we can to help the survivors with the healing process.
"Indeed, our organization is committed to supporting survivors of sexual violence throughout Pennsylvania. In that spirit, we are strongly encouraging our donors to support the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape," said the statement, which was posted on the organization's website.
The statement said the agency was continuing to review its options for continuing its programs.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868.