NEW YORK/PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - A popular Colorado Boy Scout leader named Floyd Slusher allegedly had a strategy when it came to molesting boys: He first plied his victims with alcohol, then abused them and threatened to kill anyone who talked.
On one occasion in 1976, according to police, Slusher told a Scout as he undressed the child that “what I’m going to do now, if I get arrested, after I get out of jail, I’ll come after you and your family.”
It wasn’t the first time that he had been accused of abusing a Scout - an investigator later concluded there were too many victims to interview - nor was it the first time that Boy Scouts of America leaders had been told about the alleged assaults.
They had placed Slusher on “probation” four years earlier after he was accused of molesting Scouts at a camp in Germany.
Slusher, who was convicted of sexually abusing a child in 1977, is among those named in 1,247 files on suspected and convicted pedophiles that the Boy Scouts kept from public view until Thursday, when they were released under a judge’s order.
The roughly 20,000 pages of files lay bare disturbing incidents of child sexual abuse within one of America’s most respected organizations between 1965 and 1985 and illustrate its long struggle to keep pedophiles out of its ranks.
“We failed some of our kids and we have to say we’re sorry,” Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry told Reuters. “There are cases where we failed to live up to our standards, failed to properly document cases, and fell short in other ways.”
Since at least 1919, the Boy Scouts has maintained the internal files to keep suspected pedophiles from re-entering the organization. But in a number of cases, the files show, the organization failed to take proper steps in suspected cases of abuse.
The organization currently requires even suspected cases of child molestation to be reported immediately to law enforcement officials, conducts criminal background checks, and prohibits one-on-one contact between an adult and a Scout. The group now rigorously trains volunteers and leaders to spot signs of abuse.
Local police were involved in nearly two-thirds of the 1965-1985 cases, according to a recently-released analysis by the Boy Scouts.
But in scores of other cases, local Boy Scout leaders urged accused and admitted pedophiles to quietly resign without notifying authorities, or allowed them to return to scouting after being treated by doctors or clergy.
In one case, the files show that after a volunteer in Texas was expelled when he confessed to molesting Scouts in 1965, a local Scouting official wrote to the national office and said a minister that knew the man “is doing his best to protect Boy Scouting and trying to keep this incident as quiet as possible.
“However, if some parents file charges, of course it will come out into the public.”
In 1980, the files show, another Colorado Scout leader was accused of sexually molesting three Scout brothers. He was arrested and charged with sex abuse after the boys’ father went to police. Months later, the father learned the man - out on bail - had been allowed to return to Scouting.
“I know that you are concerned about (him) filing a defamation of character suit,” the father wrote. But “in my opinion, (the abuse arrest) should be evidence enough to remove a man from Scouting.”
In the mid-1970s, an Indiana Scout leader admitted to molesting Scouts and agreed to be treated by a psychiatrist, according to the files. He was allowed to return to Scouting after his psychiatrist and minister said he was “cured.”
Years later he admitted to molesting two more Scouts and resigned, according to the files.
Boy Scout officials and attorneys have said the files represent only a tiny fraction of the 1.1 million adult volunteers and leaders who mentor more than three million Scouts annually.
Still, they represent a black eye for the Boy Scouts.
They played a key evidentiary role in a 2010 civil case in which an Oregon jury found the organization liable for $18.5 million for failing to protect a Scout from a pedophile in the 1980s.
An Oregon circuit judge ordered the files released. The state’s highest court upheld that order in June, over objections by the Boy Scouts. A similar court fight is unfolding in Texas over Boy Scouts files created from 1985 to 2010.
Reporting By Chris Francescani and Tereesa Carson; Editing by Paul Thomasch