Editor's note: Lawyers suing the Boy Scouts of America have released more than 20,000 confidential Boy Scout documents identifying more than 1,000 leaders and volunteers banned from the group after being accused of sexual or inappropriate conduct with boys.
The Portland, Oregon, attorneys are releasing the Scouts' 1,247 "ineligible volunteer files" from 1965 to 1985 - with the approval of the Oregon Supreme Court - after it won an $18.5 million judgment in 2010 against the Boy Scouts in a case where a Scoutmaster sexually abused a boy.
The attorneys also said Thursday they're calling on Congress to audit the group's current child abuse policy to "see if they are doing what they say they are doing and if they are effective."
The attorneys, who represent victims in several lawsuits against the Scouts, say the Boy Scouts hid evidence from the public and police, and that the so-called "perversion files" offer insight into what they deem a serious problem in the organization. Below are details from the lawyers' Thursday press conference, and the Boy Scouts' reaction.
[Updated at 4:47 p.m. ET] The Boy Scouts of America has issued a statement responding to the documents' release:
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our Scouts. There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong. Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.
“We have always cooperated fully with any requests from law enforcement and welcome any additional examination by authorities of Scouting policies, training, and files to learn from our longstanding Youth Protection efforts. In fact, next month in Atlanta, the BSA is hosting a Youth Protection Symposium in cooperation with other youth-serving organizations where nationally recognized third-party experts will discuss and share best practices.”
The Boy Scouts also say that the files "are not – and have never been – secret."
"They have been reported extensively in the media going back to the New York Times in 1935, included in books on scouting throughout our history, and were the subject of numerous news articles and a book in the 1990s," the Boy Scouts' statement says. "Further, the files are known to many of the millions of volunteers in scouting, because joining the organization requires they be cross-checked against this list. While not secret, the files are confidential because experts agree that confidentiality is a key component of effective government and private-sector reporting programs."
The Boy Scouts say their policies "have always required scouting to adhere to state laws in reporting abuse."
"Today, it is mandatory that any good-faith suspicion of abuse is immediately reported to law enforcement. In the files released today, police were involved in nearly two-thirds (63%) and a majority of these files (58%) included information known to the public," the statement said.
[Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET] The press conference is over. Kelly Clark's law firm in Portland says it has published the files on its website. CNN is not linking out to the reports in this blog post because we haven’t vetted the allegations that they contain, and because the attorneys say that they haven’t checked the veracity of all the allegations.
[Updated at 2 p.m. ET] The press conference is wrapping up. Attorney Kelly Clark says a majority of the files detail allegations of local-level Boy Scouts leaders molesting scouts, and arrests in connection with those allegations. Many other cases involve local scout leaders allegedly showing pornography to scouts, he says.
He says he doesn't know how many of the cases were adjudicated, and he emphasized that some of the allegations could be false.
[Updated at 1:57 p.m. ET] An addition to the 1:43 p.m. entry, in which attorney Kelly Clark was talking about the possibility of criminal charges: He said the Boy Scouts of America is reviewing hundreds of its "perversion files" of scoutmasters suspected of child sex abuse to see if any cases should be reported to police.
"I think you could see some prosecutions," Clark said.
Again, the attorneys are releasing the 1965-1985 files, but they are calling on the Boy Scouts to voluntarily release its files from 1985 onward. A Texas judge on October 4 ordered the release of the post-1985 files, but the attorneys expect the Scouts to appeal that order, the attorneys said.
[Updated at 1:48 p.m. ET] Attorney Kelly Clark said that besides releasing the files, his law firm will ask the U.S. Congress to commission an audit of the Boy Scouts' current child abuse policies.
Clark said the Boy Scouts claim they made changes and are a safe organization. He said a congressionally commissioned audit should determine whether the Boy Scouts are doing what they claim.
[Updated at 1:43 p.m. ET] A reporter asked the lawyers how many court cases they believe will come from the release of these files.
Attorney Kelly Clark said the answer was twofold. First, he said he expects no criminal cases to come directly from the 1965 to 1985 files, because of statutes of limitations. However, he calls on the Boy Scouts to release files from 1986 through the present – this currently is the subject of a court battle in Texas, he said –, and he said if that happens, criminal cases could arise from the more recent cases.
Second, Clark said, civil cases could be filed, but only in states that allow statute-of-limitations extensions for civil cases and allegations of child abuse. Oregon is one such state, he said.
Clark has said he represents more than 100 men who as children were in the Boy Scouts and allege they were abused as scouts.
[Updated at 1:34 p.m. ET] Attorney Kelly Clark says that some of the documents show the Boy Scouts didn't want allegations to get released to the public because it would make scouting look bad.
As noted in this blog earlier, the Boy Scouts opposed the release of the internal records, and said their policy of confidentiality has encouraged prompt reporting of questionable behavior and privacy for victimized boys and their families.
More background about the Boy Scouts' position: Yesterday, Wayne Perry, president of Boy Scouts of America, said the group is deeply committed to youth protection, but he acknowledged that in some cases, the organization's response to allegations of abuse by volunteers "were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong."
"Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families," Perry said in a statement issued Wednesday evening. "While it is difficult to understand or explain individuals' actions from many decades ago, today Scouting is a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse."
[Updated at 1:27 p.m. ET] More about what lessons that the documents can teach youth organizations, according to the lawyers: The second lesson, they say, is that youth organizations have an obligation to train adult leaders to recognize abuse. They referred to the $18.5 million Oregon case mentioned above, saying people involved in the Portland scout troop involved "were naive about child abuse."
The third lesson, the attorneys say, is that youth groups must be open and transparent. "You do not get to keep secrets” about allegations of abuse," one of the attorneys says. "There was no transparency and no openness" by the Boy Scouts, he said.
For background: The attorneys said at the top of the press conference that they obtained the Boy Scouts' files while working on the 2010 Portland trial, and said that it was the first time that a jury had access to the entirety of the files. The Oregon Supreme Court recently allowed the lawyers to release the files publicly.
[Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET] The files "represent ... the pain and the anguish of thousands of ... scouts" who allegedly were abused, one of the attorneys says.
Attorneys are now talking about what they call "three lessons" that youth organizations should learn from the files. They emphasize many of the allegations were never substantiated in court, "but that's OK, because what this is, is a notice to the Boy Scouts of a potential problem." One of the attorneys said the files should be looked at with a view toward seeing what the Boy Scouts did with the warnings.
The first lesson, they say, is that youth organizations must recognize that sexual predators have certain patterns of behavior. The lawyers are alleging that the Boy Scouts should have picked up on specific patterns and prevented some of the abuse, some of which, they say, was done multiple times by individual adults.
[Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET] The files will be released at the end of the press conference, which should be in about 45 minutes.
As background: The Boy Scouts opposed the release of the internal records, and said their confidentiality has encouraged prompt reporting of questionable behavior and privacy for victimized boys and their families.
"While we respect the court, we are still concerned that the release of two decades' worth of confidential files into public view, even with the redactions indicated, may still negatively impact victims' privacy and have a chilling effect on the reporting of abuse," the organization said yesterday.
[Updated at 1:07 p.m. ET] The attorneys, who represent victims in several lawsuits against the Scouts, say the Boy Scouts hid evidence from the public and police, and that the so-called "perversion files" offer insight into what they deem a serious problem in the organization.
[Updated at 1:02 p.m. ET] The lawyers, who represent more than 100 men who as children were in the Boy Scouts, have begun the press conference. Attorney Kelly Clark of Portland says the files show the Boy Scouts knew it had an institutionalized problem of sexual abuse of children in the Boy Scouts by Boy Scouts leaders.