GREEN BAY - The Boy Scouts of America rocked its own institution last month when it released boxes of documents alleging sexual abuse by scouting officials. These documents, including some from Wisconsin, allege abuse on the boys the scout masters were trusted to guide.
The Scouts were ordered to release the documents after a two year court battle in Portland, Oregon. Inside the boxes are stories like the one we found from Marinette. That’s where a scout leader was accused of sexual abuse during the '70s.
For more than a century, millions of boys have made the pledge to honor the scout code of conduct. Allegations have surfaced that some of the leaders they trusted didn't honor that code.
Among the boxes of sexual abuse allegations, nine of the documents are centered in Northeast Wisconsin. The nationwide files contained detailed accusations of sexual abuse from 1959 to 1985.
One comes from Marinette in 1973. And turns out, the man's stop in our area only scratches the surface of a long history of alleged abuse.
Documents show the scout leader in this particular file managed to manipulate the system, by changing his name. In some cases, he changed his first name. In others, he changed the spelling of his last name.
We are only reporting his first name, Paul, since he was never officially charged in these cases.
"When someone goes to that kind of length to gain access to children and to deceive others, in order to continue their offending behavior, that would be predatory in nature,” said Dr. Frank Cummings with Psychology Associates of the Fox Cities.
Psychologist Frank Cummings says this man's story is disturbing.
Cummings is also the Vice President of Strategic Planning for the regional boy scouts council.
According to the files, it all started in 1966 when "Paul" became a scout leader in Pennsylvania. There, he was accused of improper advances toward scouts.
In 1971, he registered with another troop in Pennsylvania under the name "David." There, he was accused of encouraging a scout "to commit an immoral act."
How did the scouts handle it? Well a letter between scout officials says "several days after they (a troop committee) started their investigation 'David' left town..."
Two years later, in 1973, that man, calling himself "Brian," arrived in Marinette. "Brian" was accused of "moral indecencies" with boys at summer camp.
"Never suspected this, not even an inkling," said former Troop leader Jack Hetcher during a phone interview with FOX 11.
Hetcher said he knew the man while working with the scouts in 1973. He added the scout master fled to Pennsylvania before anything could be done. But Hetcher managed to talk to "Brian" on the phone shortly after "Brian" left Wisconsin.
"He says, you can't fight this stuff Jack," Hetcher explained. "Kids make accusations and you can't fight. I said well you sure can't fight it from Pennsylvania, and he was bound and determined that he didn't do anything wrong."
Hetcher said he and other scout members went to Marinette Police. But he told FOX 11 nothing came of the investigation. However scout officials wrote in letters, because of "Brian's" behavior they believed "the boys were telling the truth."
The allegations of abuse didn't stop there. In 1974, he registered with a troop in Maryland under the name "Paul." There, he was accused of "taking advantage of boys while on camp outs."
He resigned from that scout position. But he kept trying to re-register. That's when the scouts finally tied it all together.
The organization said since "Paul" went by different names like "Brian" and "David", the Boy Scouts didn't realize it was the same individual.
Once they did, the organization denied his application. However, documents show he was never charged as a result of these allegations. That wouldn't happen until twenty years later.
"Paul" was convicted of sexual assault of a child in New Jersey in 1993. That conviction, however, did not involve the Boy Scouts organization. New Jersey officials say "Paul" served ten years behind bars. We managed to find his brother. He confirmed "Paul" died in 2008 in South Carolina.
So what about the eight other cases in our area? Four men were convicted after complaints were filed while they were with the Boy Scouts. Two other cases were reported to police. However, we were unable to find out what happened in those cases, since police records don't date back that far. The last two? Police were never notified. And that wasn't just the case in Wisconsin. Nationwide, according to the scouts' own count, about a third of the reports never made it into the hands of law enforcement.
"There's a much deeper recognition how large a problem it is," said former WIsconsin Supreme Court Justice and Marquette Law Professor Janine Geske.
Geske says abuse against children has always been a crime, but she believes there was a lack of understanding and awareness years ago.
"I think that people did not, the touching of children did not seem as serious in the '60s and '70s as we now recognize for one, just the touching can have a dramatic effect on a child. But also it's a sign that the offender is probably sexually assaulting other children and may go on to assault others, and so it's not something that can be treated lightly, and I think maybe it was in some case before," Geske said.
But Bay-Lakes Council Scout Executive Mark Logemann says the scouts learned from their mistakes and re-vamped their system.
"Certainly any issue of child abuse is unacceptable, and the fact that in some case our best efforts didn't prevent that, again, that's unacceptable," Logemann said. "But again, in the time frame, things are different today and our programs have evolved."
That may be true, but others say it'll never erase the past, such as the abuse allegations against "Paul."
"The police and the Bay-Lakes Council was just glad he was out of the area, and that's as far as it went as far as I'm concerned," Hetcher said. "I said you have to contact Pennsylvania because no matter where that guy goes, he's going to be involved in scouting and involved with boys."
And sadly, it appears Jack Hetcher was right.
Scout officials say leaders and volunteers go through more extensive background checks now. There's mandatory reporting and leaders must also conduct at minimum of youth protection training every two years.
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