William Lazzareschi was caught engaging in oral sex with a 12-year-old boy, but the BSA did not report the incident to the police. Photo via Rhode Island Parole Board and Sex Offender Registry
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the Boy Scouts of America’s confidential internal files revealed that the organization failed to report hundreds of child sex abuse cases to authorities over a period of twenty years.
The Los Angeles Times obtained over 1,600 of the scouting organization’s documents dating from 1971-1991. In those documents, BSA officials urged admitted child molesters to quietly resign and helped to cover their tracks with the parents and community.
Many that resigned cited unusual reasons for leaving the organization, such as “chronic brain dysfunction” and duties at a Shakespeare festival.
According to the report, the information about the alleged molestation cases were kept in the organization’s “perversion files” – which they had been keeping since 1919 to blacklist suspected pedophiles.
The documents revealed that in over 500 cases where abuse was reported to BSA officials by children, parents, staff or anonymous tips, about 80 percent of the allegations were never reported to the police.
According to the report, in about 100 of the cases the BSA officials actively covered up the abuse and helped the alleged child molesters hide the truth from the public and community.
BSA spokesperson Deron Smith said in an official statement, “We have always cooperated fully with any request from law enforcement and today require our members to report even suspicion of abuse directly to their local authorities.”
While what the spokesperson said is now true, that requirement has only been in place since 2010. Prior to that time, the BSA operated by following state laws which did not always require youth groups to report cases of abuse.
In many of the cases obtained by the Los Angeles Times, officials claimed they were keeping the cases quiet to protect the young victims involved.
Unfortunately, due to this approach, some of the alleged pedophiles remained undetected and were able to continue molesting children for years, the documents and court records reveal.
In one case, assistant troop leader William Lazzareschi was caught engaging in oral sex with a 12-year-old boy behind a tent at a Rhode Island Boy Scout camp.
According to the files he boy said that Lazzareshi made him to do it to him.
Lazzareshi “admitted to his role in the act” and claimed he had never done that before. He was removed from the Boy Scouts and told to stay away from the 12-year-old, but there is no evidence in the records that the incident was ever reported to the authorities.
The records do, however, say that the boy was then counseled by the Rev. Edmond C. Micarelli, the camp’s Catholic chaplain, with “positive results.” Unfortunately, Micarelli himself ended up in the “perversion files” after a different man told officials that he and his brother were raped by Micarelli when they were young boys.
In 2002, 36 victims sued Micarelli and 10 other priests over sexual abuse dating as far back as 1975, resulting in a judgment against the Diocese of Providence for $13.5 million.
Lazzareschi was convicted of sexual assault in 1997 and possession of child pornography in 2005.
In 1976, five Scouts wrote detailed complaints against a scoutmaster accusing him of two rapes and other sex crimes. The scoutmaster abruptly stepped down and said in his resignation letter that he had to travel more for work.
A high ranking representative wrote back to the alleged child molester, “Good luck to you in your new position,” and said he was accepting the resignation with “extreme regret.”
According to the report in the Los Angeles Times, BSA members accused of abuse received a form letter that read in part, “We are making no accusations and will not release this information to anyone, so our action in no way will affect your standing in the community.”
Although BSA attorneys have frequently fought to keep the “perversion files” confidential, over the years hundreds of the files have been admitted as evidence in lawsuits brought by alleged victims, and hundreds more are expected to surface soon.
This past June, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the BSA to release over 1,200 of the organization’s confidential files dating as far back as 1965. These files were integral in a 2010 lawsuit against the organization that resulted in a $20 million judgment against the BSA.
Although the BSA began instituting mandatory background checks in 2008 and has been working to perfect child abuse training, the organization may face lawsuits for failure to report past allegations of abuse and for failing to notify the parents of the victims.
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