abraham penn state

Does Lynne Abraham have a Penn State problem?

Just days after former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with molesting eight boys he’d met through his charity for troubled youth, Lynne Abraham was there.

It was November 2011, and she’d been hired as general counsel by the already-ailing charity, The Second Mile. At the time, Abraham vowed to investigate the organization and its board, to discern who knew what and when they knew it. The plan was to turn over relevant evidence to the Office of the Attorney General, which continued to investigate Sandusky for his crimes.

And then there was radio silence. No report from Abraham. No evidence the AG could attribute to her. There’s been no sign there ever was an investigation and inquiry she promised to conduct.

Abraham, the former longtime Philadelphia district attorney, is now running for mayor and was asked Monday night about the abandoned investigation during a sit-down with a Philly Mag staffer. The reporter, Holly Otterbein, said during the event that after putting a call-out on Twitter for questions for Abraham, the most common question was about The Second Mile.

In response, Abraham passed the buck, saying her firm was hired by The Second Mile, not her, and that her affiliation with The Second Mile was more to represent the board that was crumbling just days after charges were filed against its founder.

That’s a stark difference compared to what she said just 10 days after Sandusky was charged, when she vowed to look into the very board that had hired her for the sake of public good.

Now, Abraham wants to be in charge of the largest city in Pennsylvania where thousands of Penn Staters flock to each year. Could those alumni have an impact on her bid for City Hall?

In an interview with The Daily News‘ Will Bunch in December, Philadelphia political guru Larry Ceisler said he doubted there would be an impact on voters in the region, saying “I don’t even think Penn State ties are that strong an issue for Philadelphia mayoral voters.”

The numbers may tell a different story.

According to Penn State, more than 52,400 alumni live in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware Counties. Penn State alumni have a huge presence here in Philly — the current district attorney is a grad who says his dream job is to run Penn State. 

More than 13,800 Alumni Association members live in the general Philadelphia area, and according to a 2014 Alumni Association report, 14,404 Penn State alumni live in Philadelphia alone.

In a city that sent about 310,000 people to the polls in 2007 for the mayoral race, 14,000 voters all voting against a candidate wouldn’t likely sway an election. But it could make a dent in the voter base casting ballots for Abraham, especially as she reportedly falls behind in the polls behind former councilman Jim Kenney and state Sen. Anthony Williams.

There’s no reason to assume all Penn State alumni in Philadelphia are anti-Abraham solely because of her failure to investigate The Second Mile despite her promise to do so, but it would also be a bit of a rosy outlook to assume it wouldn’t factor into some of their decisions.

Penn Staters have shown they can make a difference in state politics. Former Gov. Tom Corbett got beat hard in Centre County (where State College is located) after the Sandusky mess went down, losing somewhere around 8,000 votes compared to four years prior.

For many Penn State alumni, The Second Mile became a sign of the institutions that got off scot-free in the Sandusky affair while Penn State bore the brunt of the public scrutiny in the face of one of the worst scandals in the history of higher education.

You remember how it went down: In November 2011, a grand jury indicted Sandusky on more than 50 counts related to child sex abuse. Eventually, three top administrators were charged with covering up Sandusky’s misdeeds. Joe Paterno was unceremoniously fired from his post. Rioting ensued. 

Ten days after charges against Sandusky were publicly released, Abraham announced she’d been hired by The Second Mile. The Second Mile’s interim CEO David Woodle said at the time that Lynne Abraham — not her entire law firm — had been hired.

Here’s what Abraham said in an interview with The Inquirer:

My guess is, what’s going to come out of this is that most of the people, if not all the people, on the board never knew anything about the abuse.

I think this board is heartsick over what happened. And whoever within the organization knew and failed to act appropriately – that’s on them.

We will be looking into who knew. What did they know? When did they know it? And what did they do? Sandusky certainly let this happen. Some people were aware. Who were they, and why didn’t they act in an appropriate fashion by informing the police?

Two days later, The New York Times reported The Second Mile would fold. By August 2012, The Second Mile filed paperwork in Centre County court to transfer its remaining assets to a Texas-based company called Arrow Child and Family Ministries that promised to continue to operate some programs in Pennsylvania. But The Second Mile would fully dissolve.

Onlookers were left with nothing from Abraham. Last December, Howard Rosenthal, one of Abraham’s law partners, told The Daily News that Abraham was only involved in the matter for just a few weeks after it was announced she was hired.

Rosenthal’s name is the one that can be found at the bottom of paperwork filed by the defunct Second Mile. But for what it’s worth, Abraham is still listed as a partner at Archer and Greiner.

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