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State College - The charity founded by a former assistant football coach at Penn State University who has been charged with child sex abuse started a shake-up on Monday, with its long-time leader out and an internal investigation under way.
Prosecutors say former coach Jerry Sandusky met all of his alleged victims through The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk children with close ties to Penn State that counted university trustees and football stars among its backers.
The charity and Penn State remain under siege as allegations of sex crimes and a cover-up draw national attention. The fallout ended the career of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno, who along with the university's president was fired on November 9 by the board of trustees.
Meanwhile, a New York-based charity for disadvantaged kids said it was checking on whether any of its members might have spent time at the home of Sandusky, who was charged on November 5 with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period.
Penn State and Second Mile face a string of investigations and what experts say is an inevitable surge of civil litigation reflecting concerns not enough was done to stop the alleged abuse.
Second Mile said it has accepted the resignation of Jack Raykovitz, its chief executive for 28 years.
According to a grand jury report, the charity learned almost a decade ago that Sandusky had showered with a young boy. Like Penn State officials, it did not inform police.
The resignation, posted on the group's website, was also taped to the door of its headquarters in State College.
David Woodle, the vice chairman of the group's board of directors, will now be responsible for day-to-day operations of the charity, founded by Sandusky in 1977.
The charity said it hired former Philadelphia district attorney Lynne Abraham of the law firm of Archer & Greiner to serve as its general counsel, replacing Wendell Courtney, who resigned from that post last week.
Second Mile barred Sandusky from activities involving children in late 2008, when he informed them he was under investigation. But he continued to be involved with some of the group's activities, including a summer golf outing, until the charges were handed down.
The charity, which has operations or serves people in every Pennsylvania county, on Monday launched an internal probe into its policies, which it plans to complete by year-end.
“We need to take a little bit of time, but not a long time, to systematically talk to people,” Woodle told Reuters.
The Fresh Air Fund, which sends disadvantaged New York City children to camps and volunteer host families in 13 US states and Canada for “free summer experiences,” announced it was checking into a possible Sandusky link.
News reports from about a decade ago - related to the promotion of Sandusky's memoir “Touched” - mentioned that Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, served as volunteer hosts for children from The Fresh Air Fund for several years.
“We have contacted the Pennsylvania authorities to report any Fresh Air involvement,” Andrea Kotuk, spokeswoman for The Fresh Air Fund, told Reuters.
On Friday authorities in Texas said they were investigating whether Sandusky should be charged with sexual assault of a boy in Texas, following grand jury testimony indicating one of Sandusky's alleged assaults may have taken place when he was at the December 1999 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
The same victim, whom Sandusky at times allegedly forced to perform oral sex, also travelled with Sandusky to the Outback Bowl in Florida, which was played January 1, 1999.
The close relationship between Penn State, its football program, The Second Mile and Sandusky's alleged victims continues to be a focus of the developing scandal.
In an interview on NBC's “Today Show,” the attorney for one of the alleged victims described his client's complex emotional response to recent events, including Paterno's dismissal.
Sandusky took his alleged victims to football games and other team events. They spent “significant amounts of time travelling with the team and/or in the locker room with the team,” said Harrisburg attorney Ben Andreozzi.
“He's interwoven into this Penn State football community,” Andreozzi said of his client.
On Sunday it was reported that the district court judge who ordered Sandusky to be freed on $100 000 unsecured bail had donated to The Second Mile and worked as a volunteer for the group. Prosecutors had requested a $500 000 bail for Sandusky and that he be required to wear a leg monitor.
Former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and former finance official Gary Schultz have been charged with failing to report an incident after Paterno told them in 2002 that an assistant saw Sandusky being sexually inappropriate with a boy in the team's locker room showers.
Sandusky, Curley and Schultz have all denied the charges.
Football holds near-religious status in State College, where Paterno coached the team for 46 years. The Nittany Lions regularly sell out 106 000-seat Beaver Stadium.
The Big Ten athletic conference said on Monday it will remove Paterno's name from the trophy that will be given to the winner of its first-ever championship game, scheduled to be played in Indianapolis in December.
“The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. - Reuters