Boy Scouts' Secret Files On Suspected Child Molesters Show Decades of Abuse, Unknown Numbers of Victims

The Los Angeles Times has obtained more than two decades of deeply disturbing confidential case files kept by the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America, detailing suspected child molesters in their ranks. The files, which were kept by the Scouts for nearly 100 years, were meant to bar pedophiles from further activity in the organization. A database on the 5,000 men and a few women expelled from the Scouts between 1947 and 2005 reveals around 300 abuse cases in Texas and almost two dozen just in Dallas.

The files make three things clear: Although the abusers didn't fit any particular profile, all of them engaged in extensive "grooming" behavior to earn the trust of their victims, in many cases buying them alcohol, showing them pornography and having sleep-overs. Between 1970 and 1991, the organization itself often failed to report suspected abuse to police, instead "urg[ing] admitted offenders to quietly resign." And the victims are almost certainly more numerous than what's outlined in the existing case files: the Scouts destroyed unknown numbers of additional files in the 1990s.

The Times gained access to 1,900 detailed case files from the last two decades, as well as summaries of 3,100 more cases opened between 1947 and 2005. Both came from Seattle lawyer Timothy Kosnoff, whose practice focuses exclusively on representing survivors of childhood sex abuse, and who has sued the Scouts more than 100 times.

Only one Dallas case in the Times database has a document attached to it: John McGrew, a Scout leader and elementary school teacher who in 1988 was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child and sentenced to life in prison. In 1984, McGrew fondled an eight-year-old boy, one of his troop members, in his classroom and at his home. At his trial, 16 other boys testified that he had abused them as well. Two months before his arrest, he was featured in Scouting magazine, which praised his "caring and continuous involvement with every boy in his troop."

Boy Scouts of America has faced harsh criticism for failing to inform the police, something the Times found happened in more than 400 cases. Moreover, the organization often actively helped to cover up abuse claims: "Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, 'chronic brain dysfunction' and duties at a Shakespeare festival." Some of the men accused of abuse were able to slip back into the program and abuse yet again.

The organization declined to speak with the L.A. Times, instead releasing a statement yesterday .

"Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families," part of it reads. But, it adds: "Experts have found that the BSA's system of ineligible volunteer files functions well to help protect Scouts by denying entry to potentially dangerous individuals, and Scouting believes they play an important role in our comprehensive Youth Protection system."

The BSA says they've updated their policies and procedures to help prevent abuse, and moreover, " while mistakes clearly occurred, the system has functioned well in its goal of keeping many unfit adults out of Scouting."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan