Jerry Sandusky acknowledged Monday that he used to shower and “horse around” with young boys, but the former Pennsylvania State University coach said he had never molested any children.
In a telephone interview with NBC News’ Bob Costas — his first since his arrest this month — the former defensive coordinator maintained his innocence on charges that he sexually assaulted eight youths he met through his charity, the Second Mile.
“I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids, I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact,” he told Costas in an interview that aired Monday night. “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.”
Asked if he was a pedophile, Sandusky said, “No.”
The interview came amid heightened scrutiny over the role the Second Mile may have played over the years — scrutiny, some of the organization leaders feared, that may force the charity to close its doors.
Two of the charity’s top executives resigned over the weekend, as critics continued to question why they failed to stop Sandusky’s work with children as soon as they learned of abuse allegations against him.
And criticism of the district judge who released Sandusky on $100,000 unsecured bail has grown since it was learned she was a volunteer with Second Mile.
Jack Raykovitz, Second Mile’s president for 28 of its 34 years, stepped down Sunday, saying he hoped his exit might help restore the community’s faith in the charity.
The charity’s general counsel, Wendell Courtney, also resigned. Former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham will take his place and lead an investigation into the charity’s response to abuse allegations, said board vice chairman David Woodle.
“We don’t know if this organization can be saved,” Abraham said Monday at a news conference at the Philadelphia offices of her firm, Archer&Greiner. “What we need to find out is how deep this went, who knew, and who did or didn’t do anything about it.”
State prosecutors allege that Sandusky used the Second Mile to gain “access to hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situation.”
In a 1987 interview with NBC, rebroadcast Monday, he joked that he started the organization because he enjoyed “being around children.”
“I enjoy their enthusiasm,” he said. “I just have a good time with them.”
In recent days, both Raykovitz and Courtney have emerged as targets of criticism for their role in Second Mile and for failing to act quickly when accusations were raised against Sandusky.
Sandusky informed the Second Mile board in 2008 that he was under investigation in the allegedly molestation of a boy at a school in Clinton County where he worked as a volunteer football coach. He denied that he had done anything wrong but agreed at the time to stop working with children.
He resigned from the organization in 2010, saying he needed to focus on his family and personal matters.
But Penn State athletic director Tim Curley — who is now charged with lying to the grand jury — told Raykovitz as early as 2002 of earlier claims of abuse, prosecutors said. According to the grand jury presentment in Sandusky’s case, a graduate assistant walked in on the former defensive coordinator that year raping a Second Mile boy in the Penn State football locker room.
Raykovitz has maintained he was only told that someone had been made uncomfortable after seeing Sandusky in the shower with a child.
“At no time was the Second Mile made aware of the very serious allegations contained in the grand jury report,” he said in a statement released last week.
Courtney may have been aware of abuse accusations even earlier, the grand jury suggested. In 1998, Penn State police opened an investigation into claims that Sandusky had molested at least two other boys.
No charges were ever filed, but Courtney — then general counsel to both Penn State and the Second Mile — reviewed the findings, the presentment states.
On Monday, Woodle declined to comment on whether Raykovitz or Courtney had ever expressed concern over Sandusky to the charity’s board but said that he hoped he would soon have answers to assure the organization’s donors, program partners, and participants. The charity’s internal probe is expected to be complete next month.
“We don’t want to make any decisions in a rush, but we don’t want to take forever,” he said.
Sandusky founded the Second Mile in 1977 as a group foster home for troubled boys. It has grown into one of the region’s largest charitable organizations, with nine offices across the state — including one in King of Prussia — and assets of nearly $9 million. Its services such as leadership academies, football camps, and counseling reach more than 100,000 Pennsylvania youths annually.
In State College, where both Penn State and Second Mile are based, the charity has become a pillar of the local community. Several school districts in the region refer their students to its programs. And its volunteer roster reads like a who’s who of local luminaries.
Leslie A. Dutchcot, the district judge who arraigned Sandusky this month, is a former Second Mile volunteer and donor.
State Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, asked Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille on Monday to review arraignment procedures in light of Dutchcot’s connection to the charity.
According to the charity’s annual reports, she and her husband donated between $500 and $999 to the organization in 2009.
State prosecutors pushed Dutchcot during a Nov. 5 hearing to set bail at $500,000 and impose electronic monitoring that would have limited Sandusky’s movements to Centre County. But the judge granted the former defensive coordinator a $100,000 unsecured bond — allowing him to leave the courtroom that day without putting down any collateral.
Fallout from the scandal has already taxed Second Mile’s fund-raising ability and relationship with its clients, and the specter of lawsuits looms large. The charity also faces the danger of losing its nonprofit status amid ongoing investigations from the Pennsylvania Department of State and the Attorney General’s Office, Abraham said.
“The bottom line is: There has been a lot of good done. Everyone says it,” said Woodle, the Second Mile vice chairman. “I want to make sure that in this very difficult time, we continue to support the kids.”
©2011 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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