Boy Scouts' banned sex abusers posted online
Long kept secret by the Boy Scouts of America, the names of nearly 1,900 volunteers banned by the organization for alleged sexual abuse is now online, and it includes 21 Western Pennsylvania men — most of them accused of molesting kids in their care between 1968 and 1991.
Their identities were culled from stacks of cases termed the “Perversion Files” by the Scouts and were released publicly on Monday by Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, a civil litigator who has lawsuits against the Scouts and other institutions accused of fostering a culture of child sexual abuse.
Scouring the rolls, the Tribune-Review counted 88 adult male volunteers across Pennsylvania banished by the Scouts. In Western Pennsylvania, 21 men tied to 23 troops from 1974 to 1991 were placed on the worldwide ban, including five former Scout leaders in Pittsburgh and one each in Arnold, Wilmerding, Butler, McKees Rocks and Duquesne.
Following a recent Oregon Supreme Court decree, the Portland firm of O'Donnell Clark & Crew plans on Oct. 18 to release tens of thousands of redacted pages from the same files, forcing communities nationwide to confront a legacy of alleged molestation covered up by one of America's most trusted institutions.
“I intended for this to be used by victims and their families as a useful key, a guidepost, for understanding the thousands of documents that are going to be released,” Kosnoff said.
“The irony is that the Boy Scouts of America is a well-organized machine that's more like a modern corporation than many people realize,” he added. “It documented these cases and retained these files. And they did that for 100 years, perhaps compiling more than 20,000 files against individuals.”
Local Scout leaders refused to comment on the latest round of disclosures, referring Tribune-Review inquiries to officials at the organization's Dallas headquarters who did not return messages. In the past, officials there have insisted that they've reformed antiquated rules for combating the abuse of children, making scouting safer than ever before.
The “Perversion” dossier was intended to serve both as a formal blacklist of suspected sex criminals and as a means to block the accused volunteers from suing the Scouts for violating their due process rights. But in recent years the catalog of alleged violators has aided lawsuits charging the organization with tolerating the abuse of thousands of children in order to protect its institutional reputation.
“The files show that the focus wasn't on the victims,” Kosnoff said. “People can see with their own eyes the patterns and the scope of the problem in the organization that made this abuse possible.”
Three Western Pennsylvania troops reported multiple allegations of misconduct, a Trib review of the documents shows. Pittsburgh Troop 527, for example, triggered complaints against four volunteers from 1989 to 1991. They included Samuel “Tiny” Nugent, 63, of Erie, banned by the Scouts in 1989 and convicted two years later of molestation.
He's joined on both the Scouts' list and the Megan's Law catalog of Pennsylvania's sexual predators by Albert William Otte, 55, of Butler; John Stephen Ricci, 63, of Enon Valley; Michael L. Flavin, 61, of Erie; and Raymond Alexander, 65, who now lives in Philadelphia.
Scout officials in Arnold placed Flavin on the blacklist in 1990 after his arrest on molestation charges. Alexander was banned in 1991 after Wilmerding Scouts alleged a lengthy pattern of misconduct dating back 13 years. Accused of violating children in Beaver County, Ricci resigned from the Scouts in 1986, according to the files. Similar allegations forced Otte out of two Butler troops in 1991.
The Trib was unable to reach any of them for comment; none has a listed phone number.
Seven of the 21 local men were convicted in Pennsylvania of sex crimes against children, though the violations that led to blacklisting by the Scouts vary widely. One case involved a 14-year-old boy who dropped his pants, making a fellow Scout “feel weird.” Another blocked a volunteer in Windber in Somerset County, who previously had been accused of molestation. He allegedly tried to give alcohol to boys and take their pictures.
Everyone on the list had the opportunity to appeal their bans, and they either failed to convince Scouting officials of their innocence or never tried to refute the allegations, Kosnoff said.
Pennsylvania's statute of limitations on sex crimes against children does not expire until the victim reaches 50 years of age, except for cases before 1984. That will prevent prosecutors from ever indicting five of the men on the Scout list for allegedly molesting kids in Pittsburgh, Bethel Park, Summerville, Jefferson County; Farrell, Mercer County; and Clintonville, Venango County.
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape spokeswoman Kristen Houser in Harrisburg said the ongoing scandal at Penn State University tied to convicted pedophile football coach Jerry Sandusky and the deluge of data from the Boy Scouts' files should prod all parents and institutions to redouble their efforts to protect children. Organizations must ensure that they comply with all state laws mandating the reporting and vetting of sexual predators, she said, and they should schedule regular training for both staffers and volunteers on spotting and stopping abuse. Moms and dads can help, too.
“‘I'm watching. I know what I'm looking for, and I'll hold you accountable.' That's a message parents can send,” Houser said.
The Boy Scout lists now online likely will affect victims differently, said Christopher Anderson, executive director of MaleSurvivor, a New York-based nonprofit that aids grown victims of sexual assault. Some will recall terrible memories, but others will feel vindicated.
“It will stir up a lot of emotions for many survivors,” Anderson said.