Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — A man who says he was molested by a scout leader when he was 10 is suing the Boy Scouts of America and the Chicago Area Council, claiming they knew for years that the leader had a record of assaulting boys yet failed to keep him out of scouting.
The lawsuit by “John Doe” cites once-private files released in October detailing alleged child abuse by more than 1,200 scoutmasters and other volunteers across the country. Among those named in the files was Thomas Hacker, convicted in 1989 of sexually assaulting three boys while a Boy Scout leader in the south Chicago suburbs.
The lawsuit contends the Boy Scouts organization was aware as far back as 1970 that Hacker was molesting scouts, yet failed to keep him from later volunteering for scout work in Illinois, where he allegedly molested John Doe in 1985.
It wasn’t until the files were released that John Doe “discovered that he was repressing the memories of his abuse,” the lawsuit states. The alleged abuse occurred “on routine occasions during, before or after various scouting activities,” according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Cook County.
“What the scout and his parents didn’t know, and couldn’t have known, was that his scoutmaster was already a convicted pedophile who had been banned from scouting in Indiana,” attorney Chris Hurley said in a statement. “While the Boy Scouts of America was promoting the wholesomeness of its programs, and its moral and safe environment, for decades it was secretly removing scoutmasters for child sexual abuse at an alarming rate.
“Unfortunately, once removed, many of them managed to sneak back in and continue victimizing boys,” he added.
Citing the files released in October, the lawsuit notes that Hacker became a scoutmaster with the Northwest Suburban Council in Illinois within a year after he was thrown out of scouting in Indiana.
“By late 1971, the Boy Scouts of America learned that Hacker had again been arrested on charges of taking indecent liberties with a child,” Hurley said. “A BSA official indicated that ‘under no circumstances do we want (Hacker) registered in scouting.’ Yet sure enough, Hacker resurfaced as a committee chairman and scoutmaster in the Chicago Area Council in 1983 or 1984.”
The lawsuit claims the council did not conduct a background check on Hacker and, as a result, “Mr. Hacker gained access to many young boys and began molesting children within the council,” including John Doe.
John Doe “has been psychologically damaged and continues to be damaged psychologically and to experience mental anguish, humiliation and emotional and physical pain, suffering and distress.”
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boys Scouts of America, released a statement saying “any instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable. While we have not seen this lawsuit, we deeply regret that there have been times when scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims.”
He added that the organization’s “youth protection policies and education” now include “background checks, comprehensive training programs and safety policies, like requiring all members to report even suspicions of abuse directly to local law enforcement.”
The organization’s files released in October cover thousands of pages and detail sex-abuse allegations within the Boy Scouts of America from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. They were made public by an Oregon court under the state’s open records law.
The release of the records — formally called the Ineligible Volunteer Files but commonly known among Boy Scout officials as “the perversion files” — followed a series of stories by the Los Angeles Times describing a decades-long culture of secrecy within the Boy Scouts in its handling of sex-abuse complaints against adult volunteers.
After reviewing thousands of internal Boy Scout records introduced as evidence in court cases across the country — before the Oregon files were made public — the newspaper cited hundreds of incidents of alleged sexual abuse since the 1960s, many of which apparently were not reported to police by Boy Scout officials.
Adults accused of molesting boys were often compelled to leave the Boy Scouts under the guise of being too busy with jobs or other activities to continue as volunteers, according to the Times. Many volunteers who were expelled for suspected sex abuse were able to slip back into the program, the newspaper reported.