The Boy Scouts of America may have been tacitly complicit in the sexual assaults of hundreds of boys by failing to report the predators to police and hiding the allegations from parents and the public.
A Los Angeles Times study of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 found that scouting officials often urged admitted offenders to quietly resign and helped many of them cover their tracks.
Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to cite bogus reasons for their departures such as business demands, “chronic brain dysfunction” and even duties at a Shakespeare festival.
The paper discovered the details in the organization’s confidential “perversion files,” a blacklist of alleged molesters that the Scouts have used internally since 1919.
BSA lawyers around the country have been fighting in court to keep the files from public view.
The blacklist often didn’t work as men expelled for alleged abuses sometimes slipped back into the program, only to be accused of molesting again, the paper reported.
A more extensive review by the newspaper has shown that Scouts sometimes abetted molesters by keeping allegations under wraps.
In the majority of cases, the Scouts learned of alleged abuse after it had been reported to authorities. But in more than 500 instances, the Scouts learned about it from victims, parents, staff members or anonymous tips.
In about 400 of those cases — 80 percent — there is no record of BSA officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.
BSA officials declined to be interviewed for the Times article. In a prepared statement, spokesman Deron Smith said, “We have always cooperated fully with any request from law enforcement and today require our members to report even suspicion of abuse directly to their local authorities.”
The files reveal a culture in which even known molesters were shown extraordinary deference.
A Maryland leader, who in 1990 “readily agreed” that abuse allegations against him were true, was given six weeks to resign and told he could give “his associates whatever reason that he chose,” his file shows.
In many cases, scouting officials said they were keeping allegations quiet as a way of sparing young victims embarrassment.
The result was that some alleged molesters went on to abuse other children, according to the Scouts’ documents and court records.
With 50 years in Scouting, Arthur W. Humphries appeared to be a model leader, winning two presidential citations and the Scouts’ top award for distinguished service – the Silver Beaver – for his work with disabled boys in Chesapeake, Va.
Unknown to most in town, he also was a serial child molester.
A few months after Humphries’ arrest in 1984, local Scouting official Jack Terwilliger told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper that no one at the local Scout council had had suspicions about Humphries.
But that was not true. Records in Humphries’ file show that six years earlier, Terwilliger had ordered officials to interview a Scout who gave a detailed account of Humphries’ repeated acts of oral sex on him.
Officials not only failed to report Humphries’ alleged crime to police, records show — they also gave him a strong job reference two years later, when he applied for a post at a national Scouting event.
Humphries continued to work with Scouts and molested at least five more boys before police, acting on a tip, stopped him in 1984. He was convicted of abusing 20 Boy Scouts, some as young as 8, and was sentenced to 151 years in prison.
By then, one of the Scouts he’d abused a decade earlier had become his accomplice. He was convicted of molesting many of the same boys at Humphries’ house.
Humphries and Terwilliger are both deceased.
In an effort to better protect its members, the Boy Scouts of America mandated background checks of staffers and later extended that requirement to all volunteers as of 2008. The organization also has stepped up child abuse prevention training.
But that has done little to correct the organization’s inaction of years past, especially some of the earlier cases where not even parents of abuse victims were told what happened.
At a Rhode Island Boy Scout camp in 1971, a scoutmaster discovered a 12-year-old boy performing oral sex on an assistant troop leader behind a tent.
The troop leader “admitted his role in the act” and said he’d never done it before, the file states. He was expelled from Scouting and told to stay away from the boy. Nothing in the file indicates the Scouts called police.
The records do show that the boy was counseled “with positive results” by the Rev. Edmond C. Micarelli, the camp’s Catholic chaplain.
“Upon Father Micarelli’s recommendation, the parents were not notified,” a report states.
Micarelli’s reasoning was not explained. But in 1990, he also wound up on the blacklist after a man told a Scouting official that the priest had raped him and his younger brother as boys. In 2002, the Diocese of Providence paid $13.5 million to 36 victims who sued Micarelli and 10 other priests, alleging sex abuse dating to at least 1975.
The troop leader involved was convicted of sexual assault in 1997 and possession of child pornography in 2005, but he is no longer in prison.
The Oregon Supreme Court in June ordered more than 1,200 more confidential files to be released soon.