Boy Scouts face new allegations of sex abuse by ‘hidden predators’
Lawyers who launched a national TV ad campaign this year have signed 800 new clients with sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America, including 350 previously unidentified “hidden predators” whose names are not on the youth organization’s blacklist of alleged offenders.
A roster of the 350 suspected abusers was not publicly disclosed but was made available to reporters Tuesday at a news conference in Washington to announce a civil lawsuit against a former assistant scoutmaster accused of repeatedly molesting a Scout in Pennsylvania in the 1970s.
The list also has been provided to Boy Scouts officials, who say they have reported 120 of the men to law enforcement and are investigating the others.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court, accuses the Boy Scouts of America of perpetuating “a continuing and serious conspiracy to conceal and cover up” abusers in its ranks.
“Its dirty little secret is not a little secret — it’s huge,” attorney Tim Kosnoff, who has sued the organization more than 100 times, said at Tuesday’s news conference.
The 800 former Scouts who contacted the lawyers through a website are from across the country and range in age from 14 to 88, according to Kosnoff and attorneys from two law firms he has teamed with.
They said none of the names of the 350 “hidden predators” appeared in the Scouts’ “perversion files,” a closely guarded trove of documents that detail sexual abuse allegations against troop leaders and others dating back a century.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Times published internal Scout records involving about 5,000 men on the blacklist, formally known for decades as the Ineligible Volunteer files and now called the Volunteer Screening Database. It was not necessary to be charged with a crime to be placed in the files, nor were all allegations substantiated.
In its yearlong examination of the files, The Times documented hundreds of cases in which the Boy Scouts failed to report accusations to authorities, hid the allegations from parents and the public or urged admitted abusers to quietly resign — and then helped cover their tracks with bogus reasons for their departures.
Scouting officials have fought hard in court to keep the files from public view, contending that confidentiality was necessary to protect victims, witnesses and anyone falsely accused.
A researcher hired by the Scouts to analyze a more complete set of records from 1944 to 2016 said this year that she had identified 7,819 suspected abusers and 12,254 victims.
Sex abuse lawyers and others contend those numbers understate the extent of the abuse in Scouting. They note that most offenders were accused of molesting multiple boys and that many instances of abuse were never reported. The Scouts also have acknowledged destroying an unknown number of files over the years.
In a statement to The Times, Scouts officials on Tuesday acknowledged there were “instances in our organization’s history when cases were not addressed or handled in a manner consistent with our commitment to protect Scouts.”
But they emphasized enhanced youth protection measures now in place, including criminal background checks for leaders and volunteers and mandatory reporting of incidents.
“We care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” the statement said. “We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward.”
It said Scouts officials are working through the list of names provided by Kosnoff and the others in June.
“We immediately investigated the limited information provided and our efforts have already resulted in approximately 120 reports to the lead law enforcement agency in each state with an accusation of abuse,” the statement said. “We have also contacted local law enforcement for all the cases in which enough information was provided to identify the correct agency.”
Lawyers at Tuesday’s news conference said they have heard from only one law enforcement agency, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
The Pennsylvania lawsuit marks but the latest in a slew of sexual abuse cases that have pushed the organization to the brink of bankruptcy, even as enrollment has declined.
Scouts officials will not say how many such lawsuits have been filed or how much has been paid out in settlements and judgments, and no reliable independent estimates exist. The organization says it is considering bankruptcy protection, which would halt ongoing lawsuits while settlements are negotiated.
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