SALEM — Three former Boy Scouts sued the Boy Scouts of America and its Portland-area chapter for $21 million Wednesday, alleging it hired a known pedophile who then sexually abused them in the 1970s.
One of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit said his firm has handled close to 100 similar cases against the scouting organization, and that the number of victims is "staggering."
The Boy Scouts of America knew of thousands of cases of scout leaders sexually abusing scouts over decades, attorney Peter Janci said.
"Following their founding in the early 1900s, by 1935 the Boy Scouts had already caught 1,000 Scout Leaders who had sexually abused Boy Scouts," Janci told The Associated Press in an email.
"Boy Scout documents and testimony show that there were more than 2,000 secret files on pedophile Scout Leaders created just between 1965 and 1985, and more than 6,000 were created from 1970 - 2007,"Janci said. The Boy Scouts claim to have destroyed many of the files, he added.
The lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and its local chapter, the Cascade Pacific Council, says Calvin Malone was kicked out of scouting after he had been caught abusing at least one scout in California in 1970. The suit says that Malone was hired to be a scout leader in Portland in 1974.
Internal scout documents Janci provided show the Boy Scouts warned the Cascade Pacific Chapter, soon after it hired Malone in 1974, that he had provided alcohol to scouts, but made no mention of sexual abuse. Janci said Malone has testified that he abused a scout in California and that the boy turned him in to the Boy Scouts. Janci says the Boy Scouts knew of the abuse and started a secret file on Malone.
The three former Boy Scouts in Oregon said they were allegedly sexually assaulted by Malone in 1974 and 1975 when they were 10 to 13 years old.
After being fired from the Boy Scouts in Portland in 1975 — documents show it was because he had spent more than $1,000 in scout funds on himself — the Boy Scouts allowed Malone to rejoin scouting in Montana, the lawyers said. Four men have sued the Boy Scouts in Montana for sexual abuse Malone allegedly perpetrated there.
Malone was convicted of rape and child molestation in 1993 and is being held in a special detention facility for sex offenders in Washington state.
The Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday it cannot discuss ongoing litigation. But Matthew Devore, chief executive officer of the Cascade Pacific Council, said in a statement that "the Boy Scouts of America is outraged there have been times when scouts were abused and we sincerely apologize to victims and their families."
Devore said since these alleged crimes occurred, the Boy Scouts have strengthened efforts to protect youths, including screening for adult leaders and staff, criminal background checks, and requiring two or more adult leaders be present at all times during scouting activities.
The alleged abuse and cover-ups recall scandals hitting the Catholic Church for sheltering pedophile priests, Janci said.
"We don't know the number of victims, but we know that there were thousands of perpetrators," Janci said. "There were likely exponentially more pedophiles who were not reported."