Confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America on men they suspected of child sex abuse were released today after a two-year-long court battle.
The files, which the Scouts organization called "Ineligible Volunteer Files" show that again and again, decade after decade, an array of authorities -- police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and local Boy Scout leaders among them -- quietly shielded scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children, a newly opened trove of confidential papers shows.
At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th century America. But as detailed in 14,500 pages of secret "perversion files'' released Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, their maneuvers allowed sexual predators to go free while victims suffered in silence.
The files are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files, kept at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents and newspaper clippings about legal cases. The files contain details about proven molesters, but also unsubstantiated allegations.
The allegations stretch across the country and to military bases overseas, from a small town in the Adirondacks to downtown Los Angeles.
At the news conference Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the full trove of files secret.
"You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children,'' said Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.
Clark's colleague, attorney Paul Mones, said the files ``show how pedophiles operate, how child molesters infiltrate youth organizations.''
"These guys (abusers) basically were in a candy store, the way they thought about it,'' Mones said.
The Associated Press obtained copies of the files weeks in advance of Thursday's release and conducted an extensive review of them. Clark also was releasing the documents on his website: kellyclarkattorney.com
The files were shown to a jury in the 2010 Oregon civil suit, and the Oregon Supreme Court ruled the files should be made public. After months of objections and redactions, the Scouts and Clark released them.
In many instances -- more than a third, according to the Scouts' own count -- police weren't told about the reports of abuse. And even when they were, sometimes local law enforcement still did nothing, seeking to protect the name of Scouting over their victims.
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 apologies to victims and their families.
The Scouts have launched a "Youth Protection" program, which includes this video BSA's Chief Scout Executive, Wayne Brock, which says when it comes to the safety of youth, the organization will not compromise, and includes an apology to any and all victims:
The Scouts began keeping the files shortly after their creation in 1910, when pedophilia was largely a crime dealt with privately. The organization argues that the files helped them track offenders and protect children. But some of the files released in 1991, detailing cases from 1971 to 1991, showed repeated instances of Scouts leaders failing to disclose sex abuse to authorities, even when they had a confession.
A lawsuit culminated in April 2010 with the jury ruling the BSA had failed to protect the plaintiff from a pedophile assistant Scoutmaster in the 1980s, even though that man had previously admitted molesting Scouts. The jury awarded $20 million to the plaintiff.
Files kept before 1971 remained secret, until a judge ruled -- and the Oregon Supreme Court agreed -- that they should be released.