A lawsuit filed late Monday against the Boy Scouts of America says hundreds of former Scouts have come forward in recent months with accounts of sexual abuse, allegations from across eight decades that reach nearly every state.
Lawyers began collecting the accounts this spring as they prepared a suit, which they filed on behalf of a client who alleges his former scoutmaster plied him with drugs and alcohol before repeatedly sexually abusing him.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, the lawyers said they have nearly 800 other clients who were abused while Scouts. The suit says at least 350 abusers do not appear in the Boy Scouts’ disciplinary files, citing that as evidence that the organization has not adequately vetted its volunteers and hidden the extent of the sexual abuse scandal.
“It is apparent that the Boy Scout Defendants continue to hide the true nature of their cover-up and the extent of the pedophilia epidemic within their organizations because the vast majority of new victims coming forward involve claims of abuse at the hands of pedophiles who are not yet identified by the Boy Scouts of America,” the complaint reads.
The law firm's client list, obtained by USA TODAY, alleges molestation ranging from fondling to sodomy. Some of the men accused by former Scouts ended up in court or were punished administratively for similar crimes, sometimes many years after their alleged assaults. About two dozen of the men were kicked out of Scouting for abuse. USA TODAY is naming only those who fit one or more of those categories.
The accused tend to be men of stature in their communities, most of whom volunteered as troop leaders or assistant troop leaders. They were police officers and members of the military, teachers and a mayor, doctors and a child psychologist.
Their prominent positions offered them easy access to children. They allegedly caught their prey in tents and homemade shelters in the wilderness, in their cars shuttling young boys back and forth to Scouting activities, and sometimes in the children’s own homes.
Their access was unique to the Boy Scouts itself – at giant Jamborees and secretive Order of the Arrow ceremonies, isolated summer campgrounds and well-used church recreation halls. They're accused of trading on the youth organization’s all-American wholesomeness to assuage parents who might not otherwise have allowed young boys to be alone with adult men.
“Looking at the hidden predators we’re uncovering, it sends chills down my spine,” said Tim Kosnoff, an attorney in the case who led abusedinscouting.com, a campaign to encourage victims to come forward before the lawsuit was filed late Monday in Pennsylvania state court. “It remains an open question of just how dangerous Scouting is today.”
One client claimed a licensed doctor instructed members of his troop to sleep in the nude during campouts, fondling them after they fell asleep. The abuse allegedly continued during medical exams. Decades later, the man would lose his license after a similar claim emerged.
Another client accused the former mayor of a small town of fondling him from the time he was 7 until he turned 18. Parents trusted the mayor with the care of their sons in Scouts, the client said. In July, the son of a former employee sued the former mayor, alleging abuse that went on for years. Boy Scouts of America also is named as a defendant.
Although Boy Scouts of America has been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse in recent years, the sheer volume of men lining up to be represented by the law firm hasn’t been seen since the release more than a decade ago of the Boy Scouts' own ineligible volunteer files. Those confidential records, which became public during an earlier lawsuit, were kept by the organization on suspected or known abusers from 1947 to 2005.
A USA TODAY review of the law firm’s client list found only 28 of the alleged abusers were named in Boy Scouts’ files, known internally as the “perversion files.” In those cases, the incidents on the new client list allegedly happened either before or around the time the Scout leader was blacklisted.
The Boy Scouts of America will have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit after it is served. In a statement late Monday, the organization said it has taken steps to ensure that “we respond aggressively and effectively to reports of sexual abuse.”
“We care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward,” the statement said. “Upon receipt of this information from the group of plaintiff’s attorneys, we immediately investigated the limited information provided and our efforts have already resulted in approximately 120 reports to law enforcement. We are continuing to manually search old paper records at the local level and will continue to notify law enforcement.”
Matt Stewart, who with his brother filed the lawsuit in 2003 that exposed the ineligible volunteer files for the first time, is not surprised by the avalanche of allegations, even so many years later.
“Some people never want to come forward,” Stewart said. “Some people have buried this chapter of their life deep inside of them. Some people don't want to relive the victimization. They don't want to go up against Big Brother in a court of law like I did.”
Michael Robinson, a law firm client who agreed to speak publicly, waited more than 40 years to come forward to accuse his pediatrician, Alan Schwartz, of fondling him during campouts.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” he said. “You hide it, you don’t want to talk about it. But it needs to be talked about now. The public needs to know about it.”
The Boy Scouts’ response over the years has been “totally unacceptable,” Robinson said. “I just hope to God they’re not still doing it to kids.”
New allegations highlight where Boy Scouts may have missed signs of abuse
Woven through the law firm’s list is evidence that the organization either was unaware or failed to keep records of some of the Scout leaders accused of abuse. Several cases reviewed by USA TODAY suggest the Boy Scouts of America could have done more to prevent abuse.
New allegations collected by the law firm include those made against Gary Stroup, a former troop leader and teacher. He was banned from Boy Scouts after being accused of groping 11-year-old boys in 1989. Yet he remained a member of the National Eagle Scout Association, according to a letter Boy Scouts sent to his council two years later, reminding them Stroup was ineligible as a Scout volunteer.
Stroup achieved Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout, and as an adult worked as a camp counselor and aquatics instructor at camps in central Ohio and at the 1981 National Jamboree. He repeatedly appealed his ban. Boy Scout leaders decided the only way Stroup could participate again was if he had a child of his own who joined the Scouts.
“As a scout, I was taught that to be a good leader it is my business to find out the other person’s point-of-view before we actually press our own,” Stroup wrote to Scout leaders in 1990. “I am hoping that as the leader of our great movement you will take the time to find out my point-of-view. I am putting my trust in you to do the right thing.”
Stroup was indicted on seven counts of “gross sexual imposition” after the abuse allegations in 1989. Shortly after he was acquitted in early 1990, his lawyer again appealed his Boy Scout membership revocation and submitted 41 letters of support, including from the principal of Avondale Elementary School where he worked, the local scoutmaster and camp director, the parents of Scouts and the pastor of his Methodist church.
Another accuser, who is among the legal firm’s new clients, said that at the time the scoutmaster and camp director lobbied for Stroup to remain in the Scouts, Stroup was abusing him. From roughly 1988 to 1990, the former Scout said, he was molested at least 100 times while on camping trips, in Stroup's car, at home, at church and at school. He said Stroup threatened that his brother and sister would be put into foster care if he ever told anyone.
In 2005, Stroup was indicted on multiple counts of sexually abusing children at two schools where he had worked. He entered a plea on two counts of gross sexual exploitation and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Stroup could not be reached Monday. No one answered the phone at the company where he works, and a text message sent to a cellphone number listed as his was returned by someone who said they didn’t know Stroup.
Among the firm’s other clients is a man who brought forward accusations against one of the most prominent of the convicted Scout abusers. He agreed to speak publicly about them.
Frederick Gailor Jr. said he still lives two doors down from the house where Carmine Charles Robert Falco abused him in the mid- to late 1970s. Decades before Falco started serving a life sentence for sexually abusing boys, Gailor said, Falco sodomized him during sleepovers, beginning when he was a first-year Scout.
“At about 11 or 12 when I first smoked pot, I thought I was in heaven,” Gailor said. “What attracted me was the dope.”
The abuse continued for months, Gailor said, until Falco threatened him with physical harm.
His account offers an eerie foreshadowing of what was to come.
In 1979, six months after Gailor quit Scouting, Falco was charged with manslaughter after a booby trap with a .22-caliber rifle he set up in his North Miami Beach home shot and killed a 14-year-old Boy Scout. The teen entered the living room after climbing through the bathroom window, according to court records. Falco pleaded no contest to manslaughter and received two years’ probation.
The Palm Beach Post reported police found pictures of nude boys in Falco’s home after the shooting but could not use them in a case because they were obtained in an illegal search.
Three years later, police stopped Falco as he was casing the home of another Boy Scout who had been with the teen who died. Falco planned to abduct the boy, and police found Falco in the car with a third Boy Scout, a gun, silencer and a meat hook, the Palm Beach Post reported.
He was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon, witness tampering and conspiracy to commit kidnapping, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.
Prompted by the criminal case in 1982, prosecutors investigated allegations that Falco sexually abused boys, including some in his Boy Scout troop. Falco wasn’t charged because the victims were afraid to testify, a prosecutor told the Palm Beach Post.
Two years after his release from prison in 1986, he was appointed Scout leader in a neighboring county. The Post reported that Falco was dismissed from that position because some boys complained about him making sexually suggestive gestures while camping with him.
Falco went on to abuse again.
He was arrested again in 1994 and convicted of sexually abusing five boys, and he received six consecutive life sentences for sexual battery of a child, plus an additional 265 years for 10 counts of sexual activity with a child and one count of promoting sexual activity with a child.
Lawsuits depend on victims coming forward, but many never do
Many survivors, such as Michael Robinson, said their old memories were triggered as sexual abuse in institutions such as the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics made headlines.
As a kid, Robinson said, he didn’t realize what was done to him was wrong. The abuse was so prevalent, he said, he witnessed another boy being orally molested by Schwartz in the middle of the night. The boys asked each other what was going on, but “it was like the normal standard.”
Schwartz could not be reached for comment Monday after the lawsuit was filed.
In 1997, more than two decades after Robinson said he was abused, Schwartz was accused of sexual misconduct by a 15-year-old patient in California, according to records with the state’s medical board. The boy said Schwartz, while examining his development, told him he needed to measure his penis and to collect a semen sample for testing. The doctor allegedly stimulated the boy until he ejaculated.
An administrative judge revoked Schwartz’s license. The medical board instead placed him on 10 years of probation and told him he needed to have another professional present for any exams of young boys.
In 2007, his license was again revoked, this time permanently, when the board found he had ignored that directive and offered negligent care to patients he treated for autism at a holistic medical practice he founded.
Experts said Robinson’s experience is common for child victims, most of whom never come forward.
“I think it is so hard for victims, particularly young victims, because these events rarely occur with a stranger,” said Deborah Daro, senior research fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. “Nine times out of 10, it's someone the child knows and has trusted ... someone in their sphere that probably had some pretty good standing with the other people in their lives.”
Those who share their stories often don’t do so until adulthood. The average age of disclosure is 52, according to CHILD USA, an interdisciplinary think tank focused on preventing child abuse and neglect.
Lawsuits against institutions have increased in recent years as states extend and revive their civil statute of limitations, a push that began with disclosures surrounding abuse by Catholic priests.
Former Scouts have filed hundreds of lawsuits, but many other claims fall outside of the statute of limitations for criminal or civil complaints. That may change as states loosen statutes for child sexual abuse cases.
In the past two years, legislators in 14 states and the District of Columbia passed bills extending the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits relating to child sexual abuse, according to data from CHILD USA. Nine include so-called revival windows that allow individuals to sue over past abuse.
A handful of those newly accused of molestation were cited in Boy Scouts’ own files
USA TODAY was able to match more than two dozen of the men who answered the law firm’s call-out with the Boy Scouts' confidential records. Some of those internal files pinpoint where different levels of the Boy Scouts were slow to respond to abuse allegations, potentially exposing boys to more abuse.
The 5,000 documents blacklisted men accused of sexual abuse from participating in the Scouts anywhere in the country. The files reveal cases where troops expelled a leader but the national organization waited months before doing the same. Often, the Boy Scouts of America waited for newspaper clippings of convictions to make the ban permanent.
In at least one case, the Boy Scouts failed to report a case of possible abuse to police.
Philmont Scout Ranch spans 214 square miles in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountain range, a crown jewel in the Scouts’ expansive property holdings, offering more than 1 million Scouts a back-country trekking experience since 1939.
It was there that, in the summer of 1987, the camp’s general manager learned that an assistant trading post manager had been found with photos of nude young campers. The manager confronted the employee, John Duckworth, according to Boy Scout files, and he readily admitted taking them as the boys ran from a “sweat lodge” to the showers. He said he thought it was funny at the time but realized later that it was not.
At the time, Duckworth was a 37-year-old fifth grade teacher in Toledo, Ohio.
Philmont excused the behavior, records show, on grounds that “we had never received any hint of previous impropriety.”
In fact, Duckworth had been arrested eight years earlier for allegedly abusing a child, according to Scout records. Scouts learned of this later from a tip. That case was reportedly resolved, the records say, with “voluntary counseling.”
After a parent complained about new inappropriate behavior, Philmont fired Duckworth in June 1988. The Boy Scouts' records say Duckworth was told his case would be referred to police if he didn’t leave. Duckworth hired a lawyer and appealed his dismissal from the Boy Scouts, but in March 1989, a panel ruled unanimously against him.
Most Scout leaders are volunteers, but Duckworth was a paid employee. The law firm’s new clients' claims against him date back before he was hired by Philmont, to 1982 at an Ohio campground.
Duckworth could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Contributing: Trevor Hughes, Marisa Kwiatkowski, Brett Murphy, Matt Wynn, Mark Nichols, Tricia Nadolny, Nick Penzenstadler, Stephen Reilly and Lindsay Schnell
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Boy Scouts hit with pedophile, sex abuse claims in new lawsuit vs. BSA