Lawyers anticipate victim suits against Second Mile charity
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Lawyers want a youth charity established by a former Penn State football assistant coach at the heart of a child molestation scandal to stay solvent so they can file future lawsuits on behalf of clients who claim to be victims.
The Second Mile shouldn't be allowed to dissolve its assets, according to a lawsuit filed late Wednesday on behalf of someone who claims to be a victim of Jerry Sandusky, the charity's founder. The complaint also suggests some of the future legal strategies that may be used in civil lawsuits.
Lawyers Benjamin Andreozzi and Jeffrey Fritz are seeking an injunction to stop The Second Mile from dissolving or transferring its assets. Nonprofit corporations that cease operations are generally allowed to transfer assets to other charitable groups with a similar mission.
"We felt it was necessary to take this action after learning the organization was considering transferring its programs and not continuing its operations," Mr. Andreozzi said, referring to reports last week that the charity was mulling several different options for its future, including the possibility of shutting down.
"We believe it is in the best interest of our clients, as well as the other victims, to ensure that the organization is being financially responsible. The injunction would not interrupt the everyday operations of The Second Mile or its existing programs," Mr. Andreozzi said in a statement.
Mr. Sandusky, Penn State's former defensive coordinator and coach Joe Paterno's one-time heir apparent, founded The Second Mile in 1977. The group said last week it was considering its future in light of the scandal and its options include closing, though no decision has been made. The charity's most recent tax filing showed it had almost $9 million in assets.
David Woodle, who was named acting CEO earlier this month after longtime leader Jack Raykovitz resigned, said the organization is looking at three options as it moves forward: restructuring and keeping its programs going, even if it means doing so at a reduced level of service and funding; maintaining the programs by transferring them to other organizations; or shutting down.
"Our primary goal is to sustain the programs for the sake of the kids," Mr. Woodle said.
Mr. Sandusky set up The Second Mile for youngsters from broken homes and troubled backgrounds, building it into an organization that says it has helped as many as 100,000 children a year through camps and fundraisers.
But in the aftermath of the charges against Mr. Sandusky, questions have been raised about his role in the charity and how much its officials knew of the allegations against him before the release of a state grand jury report this month.
State prosecutors contend that running the charity gave Mr. Sandusky "access to hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situations."
The grand jury said Penn State officials told Mr. Raykovitz in 2002 that there had been an issue with Mr. Sandusky and a minor. But the charity said it took no action against Mr. Sandusky because Penn State did not find any wrongdoing.
Mr. Sandusky informed The Second Mile's board in November 2008 that he was under investigation. The charity said it subsequently barred him from activities involving children.
Mr. Andreozzi and Mr. Fritz's lawsuit said the accuser intends to charge The Second Mile with "failing to ban or restrict overnight activities between Mr. Sandusky and children" and failing to follow policies used by other organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, such as the "Two-Deep" rule, which generally calls for two adult supervisors on all outings.
The lawsuit also suggests that The Second Mile was negligent both in the supervision of children and in the supervision of Mr. Sandusky and claims that the charity failed to provide the victim "with any assistance in coping with the injuries sustained from sexual assaults."
The Second Mile has received the filing and will adhere to its legal responsibilities, a spokesman said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Mr. Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period. Authorities said he met them through the charity. Mr. Sandusky has acknowledged he showered with boys but said he never molested them.
The lawsuit claims that at least 11 accusers have come forward in the case, but the additional cases are apparently still under investigation by authorities.
Mr. Andreozzi, whose firm specializes in sexual abuse litigation, and Mr. Fritz represent at least one client who accuses Mr. Sandusky of severe sexual assault. Mr. Andreozzi has said they are in "active communication" with other potential clients.
The attorney general's office has not confirmed if more complaints from different accusers will result in more charges.
First Published November 26, 2011 12:00 am