PHILADELPHIA -- A $3 million state grant that was earmarked for a youth charity established by a former Penn State football assistant coach at the heart of a child molestation scandal has been put on hold.
Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday he knew that The Second Mile's founder, Jerry Sandusky, was gone from the organization when the grant was approved earlier this year. Corbett, who said the funds were being withheld in light of the growing scandal, defended the decision to approve the grant while knowing about the allegations against Sandusky.
Corbett, a Republican, was the attorney general whose office in 2008 began the investigation into allegations of sexual contact between young boys and Sandusky, who founded the charity in 1977.
"I could not act ... on this without saying certain things that would have possibly compromised the investigation," Corbett said Wednesday following an unrelated appearance at a Philadelphia charter school. "So eventually we did approve it. I did not know the date that the (grand jury) presentment would come down ... as soon as it came down, we gave directions to stop (the grant)."
The Second Mile operated with "very good purposes in general" and gave children access to beneficial programs, Corbett said, but he questioned whether it would be able to continue in light of the accusations against its founder, who was charged Nov. 5 with molesting eight boys, some at Penn State facilities, over a 15-year span.
"I would like to see it go forward; I don't know that it's going to be able to continue to go forward," Corbett said. "I would hope that there would be a successor organization in that area to help children ... but right now we have to pull back that proposal. And I think legislative support, other elected official support, has waned."
Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999, informed The Second Mile's board in November 2008 that he was under investigation. The charity says it subsequently barred him from activities involving children.
Sandusky faces 40 counts of sex abuse involving eight boys. He maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but saying he never molested them.
A former Penn State graduate assistant claims he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a locker room shower in 2002 and told his father and head coach Joe Paterno before telling athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz.
Curley and Schultz face charges of failing to report abuse allegations and perjury. They say they are innocent.
The university's trustees fired Paterno and removed president Graham Spanier last week.
Paterno, major college football's winningest coach, is not the target of any legal investigation but has conceded he should have done more. Spanier, who remains a tenured member of the faculty, has said he would have reported a crime if he had suspected one had been committed.
The $3 million grant, initially approved under former Gov. Ed Rendell's administration and approved again when Corbett took office in January, was suspended "pending further review," Corbett spokesman Eric Shirk said Wednesday.
The grant would have helped pay for the first phase of a Learning Center project at The Second Mile, adding classrooms, a gym, athletic fields and dormitory space. The grant was structured to reimburse the organization as the project progressed, and none of the money had been spent, Shirk said.
Sandusky, in his grant proposal to the state, said the expanding organization could no longer rely on borrowed space for its programs.
The Second Mile had planned to build its $9 million facility on 40 acres of undeveloped land it purchased in 2002 from Penn State for about $168,000. It was unclear what would be done with the land if the grant money fell through.
The charity's longtime president, Jack Raykovitz, resigned days ago. A message left for board vice chairman Dave Woodle, who has taken over day-to-day operations, and executive vice president Katherine Genovese was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a national charity that focuses on helping gifted minority children partnered with The Second Mile for at least 12 years, records show.
A Better Chance, based in New York City, worked with the Pennsylvania charity beginning in 1988, according to program descriptions. The minority youths were "housed at a Second Mile residence," the records show.
A spokesman for A Better Chance was checking that organization's records to see when the partnership ended and if there were complaints.
___Associated Press writer Kathy Matheson contributed to this report.