Prosecution Very Possible for Scout Offenders

GLEN DALE – In some states, including West Virginia, child sexual predators named earlier this month in the Boy Scouts of America’s so-called “perversion files” can still be prosecuted.

West Virginia law has no statute of limitations on a felony. In Ohio, the statute in child sex cases limits prosecution to a time period of 21 years either from when the child turns 18 or when it was first reported to an adult.

Portland, Ore. Attorney Kelly Clark released the BSA documents on Oct. 18 after the Oregon Supreme Court ruled they could be made public.

The 14,500-page file reveals decades of alleged child sexual abuse involving scout leaders but never reported to law enforcement. It contains allegations of abuse of more than 1,000 Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts across the country and internal memos and reports between scouting officials and letters from victims. More than 1,200 offenders are named in alleged sexual assaults from 1965-85.

Locally, a Glen Dale man who served as scoutmaster for Troop 82 sponsored by the P.T.A. at Glen Dale Elementary School is named as an offender. Six boys reported allegations against the man, according to the BSA files.

The Sunday News-Register does not print the names of alleged offenders in cases where a criminal complaint has not been filed.

Marshall County Prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer said “while it’s true that there is no statute of limitations on felonies in West Virginia, prosecuting a case against (the accused) would be nearly impossible without one of the alleged victims coming forward.”

He said the BSA documents redacted the names of alleged victims and, without a complainant willing to testify in court, the evidence would be entirely hearsay.

“I have reviewed the documents,” Cramer said. “Based upon a brief investigation, I believe (the accused) is still alive and living in the area. My understanding is that the alleged victims would be in their 50s and 60s now. Without a victim coming forth and providing evidence regarding what actually occurred, I won’t speculate regarding what, if any, charges may be supported by that evidence.”

Attempts to reach the accused man were unsuccessful.

A total of six boys alleged to scout officials that an unknown man entered their tent on July 1, 1972, and touched them inappropriately. The letter said the man covered the boys’ eyes or shined a flashlight to conceal his identity.

The documents further allege that a camp director and program director discovered the former scoutmaster from Glen Dale performing sexual acts on a scout between midnight and 1 a.m. July 20, 1972, in a tent at the Sandcrest Scout Reservation in Ohio County.

Former Scout executive John E. Richmond reported the incident in a July 26, 1972 letter to Paul Ernst, the then-BSA supervisor of registration and membership. Richmond said he and Wayne Julian, former Scout executive of the National Trial Council who was on vacation in Wheeling at the time, went to the camp that night and confronted the man. Richmond said the accused “was waiting on the porch of the lodge … and was quite belligerent; however, after the facts were presented to him, he cried.

“I gave him two alternatives: to resign immediately as a member of the Boy Scouts of America and to seek psychiatric assistance or to report him to local police authorities. He agreed to the first proposal,” Richmond wrote.

The accused, in his resignation letter, stated the following: “It took me about one month after signing on as Scoutmaster of Troop 82 to realize I’d made a big mistake,” he wrote. There were “just too many boys for me to handle, even with the two good assistants. And the situation has been compounded by other factors.”

Wheeling Attorney William Wilmoth, who is a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s 17-state Central Region Leadership Standards Committee, said the organization will survive the perversion files scandal.

“The committee hears appeals from adults and scouts who have been thrown out of scouting or who have had their membership or renewal applications denied for such things as criminal convictions, sexual misconduct or other reasons,” he said.

He said the Boy Scouts is doing a better job of policing membership than it has in the past.

“The information that has been recently disclosed is from very old files,” he said. “… They should have been disclosed long ago. Scouting is a strong organization. It will survive. Like every organization that works with youth, there have been many changes in the way scouting operates.”

Calls to local scout executives and others associated with the Boy Scouts were not returned last week.