October 18th, 2012
12:59 PM ET

Lawyers release files on alleged Boy Scout abuse, call for Congress audit

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.


soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Dave

    I think it is the Penn State alumni who are the real victims here. WE ARE PENN STATE.

    October 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • nbgb

      I agree. I attended Penn State too but ended up in the army and never finished. I am astonished at the handling of this horrible mess.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. justintime99

    just to clarify, for the millionth time: "PEDOPHILE" covers anybody who goes after underage kids. but "PEDERAST" is specific to those who go after underage boys.

    October 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. AmandaHugginKiss

    CNN won't link to the site that has the list? Allow me: kellyclark.com

    Another site w/ other info http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/10/boy_scout_perversion_files_pub.html

    October 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Guest

    kellyclark,com is an auto parts online store.

    October 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whitney

      Bet if you typed in Kelly Clark Portland Attorney it would be a different result.

      October 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sun

    I refused to let my son join Scouts because we are Pagan, and I refused to let him be picked on by ignorant bigoted people. Guess this was the best call, considering the numbers of abuse victims.

    October 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. IndFL

    You forgot my Scout Master back in the 70's.. His name was Bob Hawk and the Pastor that worked with him. These people are SICK! I think the two that molested me are no longer living..good for them. My friends wonder why I am not a man of God... the answer is above.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Yes, child abusers are SICK. But not all scouters are child abusers, lets be clear about that. Do you call all teachers child abusers because of all the cases about teachers molesting students?

      October 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. char21

    Wow 34 comments! If this had to do with college football there would be hundreds already. Kind of shows how we are in this country in relation to media sensationalism.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RRP

    Well, I guess you have to believe in GOD enough for, A PASTOR, A POliceman and A boys scout leader to get away with completly detroying a childs life... Discrimniating against gay people was only a distraction... WHAT A GREAT GOD WE HAVE that allows all of these people intrusted to protect the kids. Folks ended up handed them over to the monsters without even batting a eye....

    October 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Sillyness. 99.9% of Scouters do their best to protect children. Over 70 million young men have gone through Scouting, and since the 1920s, the BSA has tried to keep child abusers out of the program. There are over 300 local, independent councils in the country, and unfortunately in some cases, not all have handled abuse cases well. However, that doesn't mean all scouters hide abuse allegations. Most known cases are reported to police. Internal files are created so those abusers cannot rejoin. In some cases, the police do not prosecute but the BSA still removes these individuals from the program

      October 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      ACtually, there are lots of godless people that abuse children. Your statement is sensationalist.

      October 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. GeneK

    I think we begin to see the real reason behind the scouts' ban on gay scouts and volunteers. Gay men and lesbians are painfully aware of society's tendency to regard them all as child molesters, so if they were in the scouts and saw this sort of stuff going on they'd probably blow the lid right off it.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Greg

    See, if Congress does get involved, and a congressional investigation results, then the scouts loose their ability to call themselves a private organization, and they have to allow gays. It's a trick to force a new lawsuit under differing conditions that would result in the scouts loosing their ability to discriminate against gays.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tom

    Let's remember that in the vast number of cases, the files were created to help prevent abusers from re-joining the organization (you know, before computer databases made this easier). Were their lapses in protection? Yes. Was it systemic? No. The BSA is made up of 300 local, independent councils, not one giant organization run by the national office. The maority of Scouters, whether they are volunteers or professionals, are committed to protecting our youth, as are 99.9% of the population. But as in schools, sports teams, and other youth organizations, abuses do occur, sadly and the BSA is not alone in trying to dealing with abusers and preventing abuse

    October 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • kateslate

      If the Boy Scouts did not have a central national governing body, then those 300 local councils would have the option to choose to allow non-God believing or gay boys in. But the national organization makes that decision, so your observation does not hold water.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. joe

    I was at an Eagle Scout ceremony recently where a local PA congressman spoke and went on and on about the moral values of scouting and made snide remarks about political correctness and the acceptance of gay marriage. He was a "wide stance" Republican, of course.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      In an organization with over 3 million current members, unfortnately there are some bad apples. There are a lot of great morals that scouting tries to teach it members. Will all learn the lessons? Probably not. Heck, only 60% of high schoolers graduate but we still support the public school system right? The BSA teaches leadership, responsibility, and citizenship to those willing to learn. Do all scouts agree with the ban on gay leaders and gay scouts? No. Not at all. And many hope it will change in time. But that doesn't mean the program doesn't do wonders for many, many youth.

      October 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tom

    In a story with such implications, could CNN please report the correct name of the head of the BSA? If that simple fact can't be correctly reported, what else is missing from their story? Perhaps all the steps that the BSA does take to prevent abusers or suspected abusers from joining or re-joining the oranization/ Or that the BSA has been a national leaders on youth protection policies? Heck, even MSNBC credited the BSA for being in the forefront of child protection training.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gay Me

    I'm amazed how the blind lemmings on the left take a talking point on liberal blogs and media sights and run with it. Everyone knows Romney meant to say he received blinders full of women's resumes, because he was actually going out of his way to hire more qualified women. As he stated, he was amazed how man dominated his cabinet was when he became governor, and he openly questioned the logic of it. By reaching out to women's groups, he actually showed how important women's rights are to him. And for the media to completely twist things around, because he make a speaking error, and for the lemming loons on the left to fall for it, just shows how uniformed and desperate they have become. Guess what folks, the rest of the country ain't falling for it. Obama is toast.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobby

      What Romney meant is that now he wished he had decided to hire more women when he was Governor and he has learned better.

      October 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • kateslate

      Did you know you are posting under an article about the Boy Scouts?

      October 19, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rif

    According to Wikipedia, the Boy Scouts has 2.7 million youth members and over 1 million adult volunteers. Over the course of 20 years, from 1965 to 1985, there were a total of 1,247 people listed as being ineligible to volunteer.

    This is slightly over 1/10th of 1% of the current number of volunteers over a twenty year period that ended over 27 years ago.

    While any incident of this nature is tragic, I have noticed that I have not seen any recent news regarding any incidents of this nature as it pertains to Boy Scouts. On the other hand, there are regular and frequent incidents of school teachers having inappropriate contact and relationships with students. Is this focus on Boy Scouts because of the recent conviction of the Boy Scouts of America to uphold their own oath and law?

    October 18, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
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