The first of what is likely to be many civil lawsuits against The Second Mile, the children’s charity founded by disgraced former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, was filed yesterday in a Pennsylvania court. Also named as defendants in the lawsuit were Sandusky and Penn State University.
The suit, filed in the Court of Common Please of Philadelphia County, was announced during a press conference in Philadelphia by Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn.-based Jeff Anderson & Associates, a law firm specializing in sex abuse litigation. Sandusky and his attorney have maintained their legal innocence in the face of 40 counts of child sexual abuse that came out in a detailed grand jury presentment early last month.
Announcement of the lawsuit was accompanied by a statement from the plaintiff, who was not identified in the suit and was not among the eight victims cited in the grand jury report.
“I never told anybody what he did to me over 100 times at all kinds of places until the newspapers reported that he had abused other kids and the people at Penn State and Second Mile didn’t do the things they should have to protect me and the other kids,”the plaintiff said in a statement accompanying the news conference.
The lawsuit alleges the man met Sandusky in 1992 when he was 10 years old, and participated in programs sponsored by Second Mile. He was “recruited, groomed and coerced” by Sandusky with gifts, travel and privileges, according to the lawsuit. The alleged sexual abuse occurred more than 100 times, at multiple locations including Penn State facilities, such as the coach’s locker room, at the Sandusky home and at facilities out of state connected with a Penn State bowl game. Sandusky threatened the boy with harm to him and his family if he told anyone, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims that the molestation of multiple victims “was enabled by the negligent oversight of Sandusky by Second Mile and Penn State.”
Attorneys for the plaintiff take aim at both institutions for allegedly failing in their duty of care. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages. “Second Mile’s strong links to Penn State, its fans and alumni, have allowed it to grow into the most visible nonprofit for at-risk youth in central Pennsylvania.
“In a statement, The Second Mile said: “We will review the lawsuit and respond appropriately when we have done so. The Second Mile will adhere to its legal responsibilities throughout the process.”
Since the sex scandal broke less than a month ago, Penn State fired University President Graham Spanier and head football coach Joe Paterno. Second Mile’s longtime CEO, Jack Raykovitz, resigned several days later “in the best interests of the organizations” and was replaced on an interim basis by the board’s vice chairman, David Woodle.
As many as a quarter of its board members — either state board of regional board — have resigned in recent weeks and the organization, in a statement, said it will review options for the next phase of its operations: restructuring and keeping programs going; maintaining the programs by transferring them to other organizations, or not continuing. The Second Mile reported about $9 million in assets at the close of its most recent fiscal year.
The charity, founded by Sandusky in 1977, has not been granting interview requests, only issuing statements. It has been working with Burson-Marsteller. The Chicago-based firm is perhaps best known for its crisis communications work in the wake of the Tylenol poisonings in the early 1980s. Penn State meanwhile has hired Pittsburgh-based Ketchum for its crisis communications in the wake of the Sandusky sex scandal.