Scouts’ ‘perversion files’ include Georgia cases

Decades of suspicion

The Boy Scouts of America’s files of sex abuse allegations show complaints in Georgia that date back 65 years. The Scouts kept information on 4,161, people nationwide, almost all men who were ex­pelled on sus­pi­cion of sexu­al ab­use. The files tell us the following about Georgia:

97 Georgians have been suspected of sex abuse

44 of whom were in metro Atlanta cities and towns

90 troops are linked to the suspected abusers

The oldest allegation is from 1947

The most recent allegation is from 2004

Allegations of child sexual abuse were leveled at 97 Georgia Boy Scout leaders dating back decades, according to documents released Thursday by the Boy Scouts of America.

The accusations lodged in Georgia were among those in 15,000 pages of documents compiled nationally by the Boy Scouts of America, mostly from 1959 to the mid-eighties. The so-called “perversion files” were made public by two Oregon attorneys who obtained them during a child-molestation case against the Scouts and later received court approval to release them after redacting victims’ names.

The files reveal that some of the more than 4,000 alleged pedophiles across the country continued in Scouting even after allegations were leveled against them. In several cases, community leaders such as judges and pastors helped keep the name of Scouting out of the courts or the media, according to an Associated Press review of the files.

The files included complaints against 44 Scout leaders in more than 20 cities or towns in metro Atlanta. Those places included Atlanta, Marietta, Lithonia, Woodstock and Stone Mountain. Eight of those people were associated with more than one Scout troop in Georgia, though it remains unclear whether they received complaints in each of those separate troops.

Atlanta area parents of Scouts expressed horror regarding the accusations and outrage that the national organization would keep the records confidential.

“Not only did they cover it up,” said Bryan Garner, whose son is a Scout in Decatur. “They sent people away and let them back in.”

The accusations represented a hard blow to an organization whose mission is to guide and mold young people into adults. It also revealed that the organization needs to do more to protect Scouts, Garner said.

“You can’t just wring your hands and hope it gets better,” Garner said. “You have to do something about it.”

The circumstances behind the Georgia cases remains unclear, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has not yet had an opportunity to review them.

Local Scouting leaders emphasized that keeping children safe is their highest priority, and that security measures are in place to protect Scouts from ill-intentioned adults.

“We have a culture of safety,” said Jeff Fulcher, spokesman for the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He said the area has about 11,000 adults working with young people. “Being in Boy Scouts, your son is as safe as being in church.”

Fulcher had said about two weeks ago that “as far as we know,” no one from the Atlanta area was named in the files of child abuse accusations. On Thursday, he said that, at the time, files were still being released.

Regarding the information in the files, he said, “It’s a tragedy. This stuff unfortunately occurs everywhere.”

Fulcher said that all adults undergo criminal background check prior to joining the Scouts. Their names are also sent to the national headquarters where they are checked against the names in the files of those who’ve been accused of pedophilia.

“If their name is in the files, they don’t get in,” he said.

The documents reveal that on many occasions the files succeeded in keeping pedophiles out of Scouting leadership positions — the reason why they were collected in the first place.

Within the past year, Georgia adopted a law that includes Scout leaders among the people who are legally bound to report child abuse to the authorities. Fulcher said that has been the Boy Scouts’ practice for years. He also said one-on-one contact between adults and Scouts is prohibited. Whenever a Scout is involved in an activity, two adults must be present.

The Boy Scouts of America issued its own statement, saying, “There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.”

Next month in Atlanta, the BSA is hosting a Youth Protection Symposium in cooperation with other youth-serving organizations where nationally recognized experts will discuss the group’s policies and training.

Many of the files have been made public before, but this is the first time that many of the earlier ones have been released.

Chandelle Summer was the court-appointed attorney of Larry Calabro, a Scout leader who molested seven boys during outings in Hall County. He was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to 105 years in prison.

“He was well thought-of in the Boy Scout community,” she recalled.

But she stressed that Scouting leaders did not try to protect Calabro.

“They wanted to make an example of him,” Summer said.

In 1997, one of the boys Calabro molested, then age 19, pleaded guilty to molesting five children himself.

Tom Charron, a former Cobb County district attorney, said it could be difficult to prosecute potential crimes on the list, because the statute of limitations, the deadline for filing charges, may have passed for many of them. Most felonies have a statute of limitations of four to seven years, he said.

However, the reports could be useful in identifying sex offenders.

“This would be good intelligence … just like the sexual offender registries are,” he said.

Ashley Wright, district attorney of the Augusta Circuit, which includes Richmond, Burke and Columbia counties, said she would be interested in prosecuting these cases, if the law allows.

“When you think about who is out there trying to build your future, leaders of the scouts come to the front of your mind,” Wright said. “If something was happening, it would need to addressed.”