Boy Scout files show sex abuse cover-ups

PORTLAND, Ore. Again and again, decade after decade, an array of authorities — police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and local Boy Scout leaders among them — quietly shielded scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children, a newly opened trove of confidential papers shows.

At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th century America. But as detailed in 14,500 pages of secret "perversion files" released Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, their maneuvers allowed sexual predators to go free while victims suffered in silence.

For many of those victims, the released file provides some hope. Jon Anderson told CBS Evening News correspondent Anna Werner he was molested by a scout master beginning in 1976 when he was 14.

"I think [the released files] show that this country needs to do a better job protecting its children ... if we don't set up the protection for these kids, they're doomed," he said."

The files are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files, kept at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents and newspaper clippings about legal cases. The files contain details about proven molesters, but also unsubstantiated allegations.

"To the extent that we fell short of protecting the youth -- and we did fall short in some instances -- we're profoundly sorry," Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry told Werner. "Our job is to protect every youth. It's not enough to say we did a great job most of the time. We have to do a great job all of the time."

Boy Scout abuse victim Tom Stewart poses for a photo with his old Scout uniform outside the Boy Scout Camp Kilworth in Federal Way, Wash on August 16.
Ted S. Warren

The allegations stretch across the country and to military bases overseas, from a small town in the Adirondacks to downtown Los Angeles.

At the news conference Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the full trove of files secret.

The Associated Press obtained copies of the files weeks in advance of Thursday's release and conducted an extensive review of them.

The files were shown to a jury in a 2010 Oregon civil suit that the Scouts lost, and the Oregon Supreme Court ruled the files should be made public. After months of objections and redactions, the Scouts and Clark released them.

In many instances — more than a third, according to the Scouts' own count — police weren't told about the reports of abuse. And even when they were, sometimes local law enforcement still did nothing, seeking to protect the name of Scouting over their victims.

Victims like three brothers, growing up in northeast Louisiana.

On the afternoon of Aug. 10, 1965, their distraught mother walked into the third floor of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office. A 31-year-old scoutmaster, she told the chief criminal deputy, had raped one of her sons and molested two others.

Six days later, the scoutmaster, an unemployed airplane mechanic, sat down in front of a microphone in the same station, said he understood his rights and confessed: He had sexually abused the woman's sons more than once.

"I don't know how to tell it," the man told a sheriff's deputy. "They just occurred — I don't know an explanation, why we done it or I done it or wanted to do it or anything else it just — an impulse I guess or something.

"You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children," said Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.

"As far as an explanation I just couldn't dig one up."

He wouldn't have to. Seven days later, the decision was made not to pursue charges against the scoutmaster.

The last sliver of hope for justice for the abuse of two teenagers and an 11-year-old boy slipped away in a confidential letter from a Louisiana Scouts executive to the organization's national personnel division in New Jersey.

"This subject and Scouts were not prosecuted," the executive wrote, "to save the name of Scouting."

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