TODAY   |  November 12, 2011

Penn State focus turns to charity

A charity devoted to underprivileged children is coming under fire because of allegations that children were abused by founder Jerry Sandussky, but as NBC News’ Mike Isikoff reports, ‘The Second Mile’ severed ties with Sandusky in 2008.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, co-host: And the man at the center of this scandal, Jerry Sandusky , founded a children's charity . It is called The Second Mile . And one former member is speaking out about what happened to him when he was part of the group. We get more now from NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff .

MICHAEL ISIKOFF reporting: Sandusky founded The Second Mile in 1977 to help disadvantaged kids. Sandusky was the charity 's biggest booster, helping to raise millions of dollars from wealthy donors and major corporations and recruiting high profile honorary board members . When he spoke to WHVL 's Penn State tailgate show in 2007 he was enthusiastic about what Second Mile was doing for kids.

Mr. JERRY SANDUSKY: Opportunity to see some special young people overcome some challenges in their life and go on to lead a life of excellence.

ISIKOFF: But years before any reports of sexual abuse reached authorities, Sandusky 's conduct made some Second Mile children uncomfortable.

Mr. TROY CRAIG (Former "Second Mile" Child): Any time we were in the car driving anywhere, his hand -- it was a given that his hand would be on my thigh. And, you know, I just knew that that was not the way any other adult man in my life touched me.

ISIKOFF: Troy Craig attended Second Mile summer camps more than 20 years ago from ages 11 to 14. He says Sandusky lavished him with attention, taking him to Penn State football games and introducing him to players in the locker room . He wasn't sexually abused, but after a while he says there were too many hugs and too much touching.

Mr. CRAIG: I remember him coming up behind me and, you know, trying to make a joke of it, but all the same just feeling, you know, kind of, 'Don't, no. Stop it. Stop that.'

ISIKOFF: According to the grand jury report, Sandusky met every one of his victims through Second Mile programs. Now there are questions about whether top charity executives here may have protected him for years, just like Penn State officials are alleged to have done. The grand jury report discloses there was an investigation in 1998 into allegations that Sandusky was showering and groping young boys in the Penn State locker room . No charges were filed and it's not clear if charity officials were ever informed. In 2002 , Jack Raykovitz , the charity 's executive director, was told about a new allegation, again, involving Sandusky and a young boy in the locker room shower. The charity took no action and Sandusky continued to participate in Second Mile programs. NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris , a Second Mile honorary board member , is furious about that.

Mr. FRANCO HARRIS (NFL Hall-of-Famer, "Second Mile" Honorary Board Member): And I don't understand it. And those are the answers that we need to find.

ISIKOFF: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett also wants answers.

Governor TOM CORBETT (Republican, Pennsylvania): I need to know what the charity -- what the board members knew. And I think that's a determination that people will be looking into.

ISIKOFF: The charity has declined to answer any questions this week. In a statement posted on its website, it says it first learned of an investigation into Sandusky in 2002 but that Penn State officials informed Second Mile there was no finding of wrongdoing. But Second Mile severed all ties with Sandusky in 2008 when more allegations surfaced. "We immediately made the decision to separate him from all of our program activities involving children." The statement continued, "We have done everything in our power to cooperate with law-enforcement officials and we will continue to do so." So charity officials are vowing to continue forward. They say they have important and valuable programs and they're going to forge ahead, but that may not be good enough. There are a lot of angry parents and school officials here, and there are reports just in the last couple of days that school officials -- local school officials have stopped referring students to Second Mile programs.

HOLT: And, Mike , we were told yesterday...

ISIKOFF: Lester :

HOLT: ...that Joe Paterno had hired a high-profile attorney. My understanding is he testified to the grand jury , he was not charged. What legal concerns or legal jeopardy could he be looking at?

ISIKOFF: Oh, there are multiple legal proceedings in which Joe Paterno is going to need legal counsel . Obviously, for one, the investigation is continuing, so there could be more charges brought. There are the obvious

prospect of trials in which Joe. .....a witness. But more importantly than that, there is the very real possibility of a flood of major civil lawsuits from the victims and their families here in which all the principles could well -- including Joe Paterno -- could well find themselves as defendants.