Boy Scouts abuse claims revealed

Secret files detail handling of leaders in 2 Pa. incidents

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After a Boy Scout accused a Scout leader of making sexual advances while they were alone at a campground in 1979, Scout officials in Pittsburgh allowed the leader to resign and never contacted authorities.

A decade later, the head of the Boy Scouts in Philadelphia concluded he had no duty to contact authorities regarding sex-abuse allegations against a scoutmaster there because the alleged victim was not a Scout.

Those cases and hundreds more from Pennsylvania are among those described in secret files kept by the Boy Scouts of America between 1970 and 1991 and made public as evidence in a California sex-abuse lawsuit against the youth group.

Next month, a set of records from 1965 to 1985 are to be released following an order by the Oregon Supreme Court in a similar case against the Boy Scouts of America that resulted in a $20 million verdict.

The Boy Scouts' so-called "perversion files" were a blacklist used to track individuals who had been barred from Scouting. In the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia cases, the list appears to have prevented the accused leaders from rejoining the Boy Scouts.

A review of more than 1,600 files by the Los Angeles Times shows that in many cases, Scout leaders who were blacklisted were allowed to rejoin the organization and were again accused of abuse. In most of the cases, the Scouts learned of the abuse after it had already been reported to authorities.

But in about 500 cases, Scout officials learned about allegations of abuse from parents, staff members or the boys themselves. In the majority of those cases, the Times investigation found, there is no record Scout officials reported the claimed abuse to authorities. In more than 100 cases, Scout officials actively worked to conceal the allegations.

In response to the report, the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement:

"We regret there have been times when, despite the BSA's best efforts to protect children, Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims," the statement says.

The Boy Scouts noted that the files concern decades-old allegations and that the organization has recently been recognized as a leader in protecting youth. It now requires its members to report even the suspicion of abuse to law enforcement, the statement says.

In the Pittsburgh case, a teenage Boy Scout accused a 31-year-old professional Scout leader in charge of a Scouting district southwest of Pittsburgh of making sexual advances.

The boy reported to his scoutmaster that the leader grabbed his buttocks and crotch and made sexually suggestive comments as the pair inspected a campground in May 1979.

When confronted by his superiors, the leader denied the boy's allegations but said he would resign from the Boy Scouts of America rather than contest the boy's claims and endure the negative publicity that would follow, according to the Boy Scouts' secret files.

A Boy Scout official reported that he contacted the boy's father after the leader volunteered to resign. The boy's father said he was satisfied that the organization had done everything it could. The Scout official noted, however, that he reported the incident to the local Boy Scout council's insurance agent, the Boy Scouts' files say.

More than three years later, the accused leader inquired with the national Boy Scouts office in Irving, Texas, about a professional Scouting position. It is unclear from the file whether he was given a job.

But the file shows that in 1987 Scouting officials in Pittsburgh forwarded documents regarding the 1979 incident to the national Boy Scouts office, resulting in the leader's addition to the blacklist. The file also shows that his inclusion on the list resulted in the rejection of his application to register as a scoutmaster in Indianapolis in 1989.

The Morning Call is not identifying the leader because he was never charged with a crime. Pennsylvania and Indiana criminal court records do not indicate he was ever charged with other offenses.

Now living in Indiana and working for a community nonprofit, the 63-year-old man said Tuesday he felt he had little hope of defending himself against allegations by the boy and that he felt physically threatened by the Scout's family.

"I resigned because I didn't have the wherewithal to fight it," the man said. "I would have had no backing. It would have been him against me. It wouldn't have been good for the Boy Scouts, and it wouldn't have been good for me."

In the Philadelphia case, documents from the Boy Scouts' confidential files show a 14-year-old boy accused a 37-year-old scoutmaster from North Philadelphia of soliciting oral sex.

Although police appear to have been involved in the case from the outset in August 1989, and the scoutmaster immediately offered his resignation, Scout executive Richard B. Marion noted in a memo that he did not believe he had a duty to inform state authorities of the allegations because the boy was not a Scout.

State child-abuse reporting laws have since been rewritten to require broader categories of officials to report child abuse.

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