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Judge In Child Rape Case Volunteered With Sandusky's Charity

Catherine Green |
November 14, 2011 | 11:48 a.m. PST

Assistant News Editor

Judge Leslie Dutchcot volunteered with and made donations to youth outreach group The Second Mile, Sandusky's main source for targeting boys. (Photo courtesy of Goodall & Yurchak)
Judge Leslie Dutchcot volunteered with and made donations to youth outreach group The Second Mile, Sandusky's main source for targeting boys. (Photo courtesy of Goodall & Yurchak)
Gawker-owned sports news outlet Deadspin reported Sunday District Judge Leslie Dutchcot may have had a conflict of interest in the case against Penn State's former assstant coach Jerry Sandusky. Dutchcot volunteered with Sandusky's charity, The Second Mile, and donated between $500 and $1,000 to support the group's work with Pennsylvania youth. The Deadspin write-up attributed the information to attorney profiles on the website of State College, Pa.-based firm Goodall & Yurchak. At the time of reporting, mention of the association had been removed from Dutchcot's profile.

Sandusky was formally charged with molesting eight children over the course of 15 years, a period between 1994 and 2009. Judge Dutchcot ordered Penn State’s former assistant coach to be freed Nov. 5 on $100,000 unsecured bail, a significant downgrade from the state attorney general's original suggestion — $500,000 and a court-ordered electronic leg monitor. Sandusky will only have to post bail if he fails to show up for court. Dutchcot also ordered that he have no further contact with children.

The lenient ruling drew immediate criticism from the public.

Deadspin's Sean Newell wrote that while it is a standard practice that judges give back within their communities, the judge's professional and philanthropic investment in the case is odd.

"It just seems that, given the nature of the charges, the small-town atmosphere, and her relationship to Second Mile," Newell said, "Judge Dutchcot should have recused herself from being involved with this process. Or that could be precisely why she did not."

Under the ethical canons outlined by the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania, "Judges should not allow their family, social, or other relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment.... Judges should disqualify themselves in a proceeding in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including instances where they have a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party."

The code of conduct allows for community service, under certain conditions:

Judges may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon their impartiality or interfere with the performance of their judicial duties. Judges may serve as an officer, director, trustee, or non legal advisor of an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization not conducted for the economic or political advantage of its members, subject to the following limitations... Judges should not serve if it is likely that the organization will be engaged in proceedings that would ordinarily come before them or will be regularly engaged in adversary proceedings in any court.

Judge Dutchcot has not responded to calls for comment on her her decision to rule over Sandusky's case despite the affiliation with his charity.

Listing "guiding principles" like "responsibility" and "character" on its website, The Second Mile is widely believed to have been Sandusky's primary point of access to young boys. He retired from his coaching post in 1999, but retained emeritus status and continued to use university facilities to conduct business for the charity, according to an earlier report by USA Today. It was inside the school's locker room that assistant coach Mike McQueary discovered him raping a child in 2002.

Sandusky founded The Second Mile in 1977 to help disadvantaged youth. The group's mission statement and background information emphasize positive encouragement and opportunities for kids in Pennsylvania. Just above updated statements on the rape charges, a cheery message welcomes visitors: "At The Second Mile, we are committed to helping young people achieve their potential as individuals and as community members and providing education and support for their parents and youth service professionals."

The organization has clearly been rocked by the allegations brought against its founder. A statement Monday announced CEO Jack Raykovitz's resignation over the weekend. Raykovitz reportedly knew of the abuse, failed to report it to police and allowed Sandusky to have contact with children until 2008, when Sandusky told the board he was under investigation and stopped working with the organization.

The Second Mile’s statement said the group would cooperate with the attorney general's office while conducting its own internal investigation, and has taken on Archer & Grenier as replacement legal counsel for attorney Wendell Courtney, who resigned last week.

"Over the past week the families of many participants have urged us to maintain TSM’s programs, saying they continue to believe deeply in TSM’s mission and the value it provides young people in our community," the statement read. "We remain committed to Second Mile children, teens and families." The Second Mile's vice chairman of the Board of Directors will take over day-to-day operations.

As for Judge Dutchcot, it's unclear whether she has any current affiliation with the youth outreach group, or if she will be further involved with Sandusky's trial. According to ABC News, the case has expanded to include six separate investigations; a number of prominent Pennsylvania officials, including Gov. Tom Corbett, believe more victims will come forward.

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