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Many files contain searing descriptions of molestation from young victims.
"I was crying, and I reached around and hit Max in the face, and said I was going to quit the troop and tell my daddy," a 10-year-old Scout wrote in 1972, describing his alleged rape by a Georgia troop leader, Samuel Max Dubois Jr. "Then we heard the others coming back, and Max said put your pants back on."
Dubois was not tried in that case but was expelled from the Scouts. He was later convicted of child sexual abuse in North Carolina and spent 14 years in prison, state records show.
Today, the Boy Scouts of America says it continues to use the confidential files as part of its efforts to prevent child abuse. In recent decades, it has added other protective measures. In 1988, for instance, Scouting did away with probation; its policy now is to expel anyone suspected in "good faith" of abuse. In 2008, criminal background checks were required on all volunteers, and in 2010 the organization required all suspected abuse to be reported to law enforcement.
The extent to which these measures have succeeded is impossible to gauge: The Scouts continue to fight in court against the release of more recent files.
The case of a Southern California troop leader named Stephen Field illustrates how porous the Scouts’ protections were in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Scouting officials first investigated Field in 1971, when a Santa Monica Scout said the leader had sexually abused him.
A troop committee including parents and a psychiatrist concluded unanimously that the boy’s story was true and discovered that Field had a history of inappropriate behavior - including making Scouts run around naked after games of strip poker, according to the file.
But no one called police. Instead, a regional Scout leader followed what was then standard procedure: He filled out a biographical form on Field and assembled the evidence for national headquarters, which opened a confidential file and deleted Field’s name from the membership rolls.
From that point forward, any time Field tried to register as a Scouting volunteer, his name was supposed to be checked against a national list of those in the confidential files. Scouting officials assured the regional Scout leader that Field would never participate in Scouting again.
But he did. He was involved with several Southern California troops over the next 17 years, according to his file.
Contacted recently by The Times, Field explained that after he failed a lie detector test required by the Santa Monica troop committee, he was encouraged to transfer to another troop in the city, where he served as scoutmaster for four years.
"They said it had all been cleared up with the Scouts," Field said.
In Valencia, he joined his brother-in-law’s troop but left after a parent intercepted a love letter he had written to a Scout, the file shows. At one point, the file says, Field was caught watching pornography with naked Scouts in his Jacuzzi.
No one appears to have reported either incident to national headquarters at the time.
Headquarters didn’t learn that Field had re-entered the Scouts until 1988, when a Scouting official in Fillmore reported that "Steve Field," chairman of the local troop committee, had been arrested for masturbating with a boy. It took a few days for officials to confirm he was the same Stephen D. Field who had been expelled in 1971.
Sheriff’s investigators found pictures of nude boys dating back 10 to 15 years in Field’s possession and asked the Boy Scouts for their file on Field.
The national office complied, with one request: "We hope you will use this information with discretion since we have tried to maintain our files so that they cannot be subpoenaed in any legal action," wrote Paul Ernst, administrator of the confidential files from the 1970s into the 1990s.
Ultimately, Field was convicted of abusing two 13-year-old-boys in Fillmore and sentenced to 12 years in prison, his file indicates.Next Page >
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