An unidentified man is suing the Boy Scouts of America and a sex offender former scoutmaster for allegedly abusing him for two years in the 1980s.
"This is a travesty," Chicago attorney Christopher Hurley said of the abuse allegedly suffered by his client at the hands of convicted sex offender and former scoutmaster Thomas Hacker.
"The Boy Scouts have known they've had a problem in their organization for decades," Hurley said.
Hacker, 76, has been declared a sexually dangerous person and is serving an indefinite sentence in Big Muddy River Correctional Center. He has sex crime convictions out of Cook, Kendall and Kankakee counties.
Hacker's name was found among the 1,200 or so secret "perversion" files compiled by the Boy Scouts. The files were released in October by order of the Oregon Supreme Court.
The Boy Scouts of America used these records to prevent blackballed Scout leaders from returning to the organization with other troops. The files are filled with correspondence between the leadership of the Scouts and troop leaders, interviews with Scouts and parents, as well as newspaper clippings about arrest reports and molestation trials.
Hacker's file starts with a “confidential record sheet” dated June 8, 1970, in which a Boy Scout official recommends that Hacker be placed in the “ineligible volunteer file” after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Indianapolis.
Hacker's sentence of one to five years in an Indiana prison was suspended on the stipulation he receive psychiatric treatment. Hacker received permission to relocate to Chicago’s northwest suburbs, where a year later he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of indecent liberties with a child. But Hacker does not appear in the Boy Scout perversion files again until 17 years later—after he was charged with six counts of aggravated sexual assault for molesting three Boy Scouts, ages 11 and 13, from St. Louis de Montfort Church in Oak Lawn in 1988, according to published news reports in his confidential file.
Eventually, he would be charged with 25 counts of having oral sex with underage Boy Scouts. At his 1989 trial, Cook County prosecutors said Hacker was able to elude the Boy Scouts of America’s internal controls for tracking pedophiles by changing his middle initial.
Hurley said his client, who is identified only as "John Doe" in the lawsuit, was a scout from St. Louis de Montfort Church. When he was about 10 years old, he was subjected to "severe abuse" over the course of two years, Hurley said.
Hurley said his client was set to testify at Hacker's criminal trial, but accounts from older victims secured a conviction without the boy taking the witness stand.
Hurley said his client is now a "family man." According to the lawsuit, the molested boy "suppressed the memories of this abuse" but after the perversion files were unsealed and publicized, he "discovered that he was repressing the memories of his abuse, discovered his injuries, and became aware" that he should be suing Hacker and the Boy Scouts.
A Boy Scouts official said the organization regrets that scouts had been abused but said the Boy Scouts have actually been pioneers when it comes to protecting the members of youth programs.
“Any instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable. While we have not seen this lawsuit, we deeply regret that there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims," said Deron Smith, the director of public relations for the Boy Scouts, in a statement released by the organization.
"The BSA was one of the first youth programs to develop youth protection policies and education, and in the 30 years since these events took place has continuously enhanced its multi-tiered policies and procedures, which now include background checks, comprehensive training programs, and safety policies, like requiring all members to report even suspicions of abuse directly to local law enforcement,” Smith said.
In going after the Boy Scouts, the lawsuit claims the organization "should have known that Scouting attracts pedophiles" since it allows pedophiles to go on camp-outs with boys and puts pedophiles in "situations where the boy has to change clothing or spend the night with him."
Scouting also "conditions boys to the concept of strict obedience to the Scout Leader, a bonding mechanism that pedophiles crave," the lawsuit says, pointing out that scouting "promotes the idea of secret ceremonies, rituals and loyalty oaths, all of which help facilitate the pedophile's efforts to keep his victims silent and compliant."
The recently unsealed perversion files prove that Boy Scouts knew they had a massive problem but still chose not not to go to the authorities, Hurley said.
"Their strategy was to keep everything secret," he said. "That's not a sufficient strategy to protect children."