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File sheds light on decades-old Boscawen Boy Scout abuse allegations

In 1972, a Boscawen Scoutmaster charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy in his troop was found not guilty by a Merrimack County jury.

The man’s acquittal, however, didn’t allay the concerns of local Boy Scout leaders, who learned a year later that he was seeking to become a Scoutmaster in Arizona.

“Mike, I am afraid that (the Scoutmaster) will be getting into trouble again even though the court declared him inocent (sic),” Don Warner, then a New Hampshire district executive, wrote to an official in the national office of the Boy Scouts of America. He told the official that another New Hampshire Scout leader “thought you would want to know about this case and would know how to discretely (sic) handle it.”

The man’s Arizona Scouting application was denied, according to once-confidential Scouting records published in an online database last month by the Los Angeles Times.

Of the thousands of cases posted online by the Times, only one involves a Scout leader from the Concord area. The man’s file, which includes his application for a Scoutmaster license, correspondence between Scouting officials and news clippings, describes how the organization responded to the situation, at least after the police filed the sexual assault charge.

But it doesn’t tell the full story of what happened in Boscawen: The file contains no official investigative documents or accounting of his trial. In their letters about the man, Scout leaders seemed to rely on secondhand information to explain the allegations.

As incomplete as the file is, other allegations may have gone undocumented entirely. Warner, the former local Scouting executive who told the national organization about the Boscawen Scoutmaster, said last week that he had been involved in investigating “dozens” of sexual abuse allegations and rarely – if ever – involved law enforcement.

“I don’t think I ever had contact with the police, because the troop chairman or committee or Scoutmaster or whoever said, ‘Don’t do anything more about it, please. We’ll follow up on it,’ ” Warner said in a phone interview last week.

In Boscawen, the police were contacted, though the file doesn’t say at whose request. The Scoutmaster, now in his late 70s and living in another state, told the Monitor last week that he was surprised when a state trooper came to his door one Sunday morning and arrested him.

“I went to court and won the situation, that’s what happened,” he said in a brief phone conversation. The Monitor decided not to name the man, given his acquittal and the decades that have passed since his arrest.

The man said he was arrested during his first year serving as Scoutmaster. He joined the organization because of his sons, he said.

“I don’t care to continue this conversation,” he said. “It’s hard enough to live with it.” He said he never rejoined the Scouts.

While the man’s file indicates he wasn’t allowed to become a Scoutmaster in Arizona, it doesn’t say whether he ever tried to join elsewhere. A spokesman for the Boy Scouts said the organization does not comment on specific files.

“The BSA maintains the confidentiality of the files in order to encourage prompt reporting of abuse,” the spokesman, Deron Smith, said in a statement. The Boy Scouts opposed the release of the files, which were ordered public by the Oregon Supreme Court earlier this year at the request of news organizations.

While many of the confidential files – the Boscawen Scoutmaster’s included – indicate the police were involved, a Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 files from 1970 to 1991 found 400 cases in which the Scouts were the first to learn of abuse allegations, with no indication that the organization ever contacted the police.

Smith said the confidential files “were not traditionally meant to be a comprehensive record of all actions taken in an individual situation,” meaning the Scouts may have alerted the police in certain cases without documentation.

The organization has required since 2010 that Scouting members report any good faith suspicion of physical or sexual abuse to local authorities. Before that, Scouting members were required to follow state mandatory reporting laws, but the organization adopted its own policy because state laws vary, Smith said. The Scouts also require criminal background checks and administer training programs for staff and volunteers, as well as children and their parents, Smith said.

Despite the laws that existed, the Times’s review of the confidential files suggests it wasn’t uncommon for Scouting leaders to not involve the police. In addition to the 400 files that showed no evidence of the Scouts contacting the police, in more than 100 cases, officials “actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it,” according to the newspaper’s report.

Warner, who served as a district executive from the mid-1960s to the 1980s, said that when the Scouts handled abuse allegations on their own, they weren’t trying to protect predators.

Instead, children and parents were afraid to say what happened. “The parent says, ‘Yeah, but don’t tell anybody. I’ll take care of it. I don’t want my son involved,’ ” Warner said.

“I spent my whole lifetime trying to get these guys squared away and kicked out of scouting,” Warner said. As a teenager, he recalled going to his Scoutmaster when he noticed that other Scouts had been spending time with an older troop leader.

“I could never find a kid anywhere that would say he was being abused, because the kid’s life is threatened if he says anything about it,” Warner said.

The boy who was the subject of the charge against the Boscawen Scoutmaster did come forward. In an interview last week, he said he was molested while he was at the Scoutmaster’s house studying.

“He would send his kids away, and the next thing you know it was just me and him,” the man said. A father of two who lives in another state, he asked not to be named, saying he has never told his sons what happened.

The abuse “was basically just fondling and stuff of that nature,” the man said. “At the time, I didn’t know what to say, but I knew I wasn’t going back.”

He told his mother he didn’t want to be in the Scouts any more, and when she asked why, “I basically broke down and told her,” the man said. He said his mother called the police, leading to the Scoutmaster’s arrest.

The man said he took part in the trial, which happened in April 1972. Court records don’t include a transcript or state what led a jury to find the Scoutmaster not guilty of the felony charge, which alleged that he fondled and performed oral sex on the boy and forced the boy to perform oral sex on him.

But the boy was evaluated by a child psychiatrist at the state’s Child Guidance Clinic at the request of the Scoutmaster and his attorney, who filed a motion alleging the child suffered from hallucinations and had been the victim of abuse at home.

According to a report from the psychiatrist, the boy’s mother was starting a new relationship, and “in those circumstances it is not untoward or unlikely that at such a time he might be susceptible or even amenable to seduction in his seeking for nurturance.”

The psychiatrist also advised against having the boy testify. “It is highly likely that this would serve no useful purpose in this child’s own sexual development, and that otherwise, with help, the incident will simply be closed over and probably form no lasting part of his sexual adjustment.”

The man, who remembers going to the psychiatrist, said he wasn’t abused at home. His mother was divorced, but his father was still in his life, he said.

“The way they try to portray it, I was just an underprivileged child that was trying to get attention,” he said. “It was just me against him, and it was my word against his.”

When the Scoutmaster was acquitted, “my mother was torn up, and my dad was torn up, that they didn’t do nothing to him,” the man said. “What can you do as a 10, 11-year-old? Nothing.”

But “I made peace with it a long time ago,” he said. Years later, when his sons signed up for the Scouts, he became an assistant Scoutmaster.

“I joined to protect my children, because I know what can happen,” he said.

(Maddie Hanna can be reached at 369-3321 or
mhanna@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @maddiehanna.)

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