The small classified ad appeared Dec. 12, 1989, in Style Weekly: "20 years ago, boy scout troop 410 which met at Westhampton Church was led by a pedofile [sic]. If you were a victim and want to talk about it, please write."
The notice apparently caught the attention of the Boy Scouts of America, an employee of which photocopied the ad and squirreled it away in the organization's vast "perversion files."
In the 1960s, '70s and '80s the organization amassed 1,200 records of suspected sexual abuse by scoutmasters. The files were used internally to track individuals banned from scouting, but allegations of abuse often went unreported to authorities. The documents were made public last week as part of a 2010 sex-abuse lawsuit lodged in Oregon against the organization. The plaintiff used the files to demonstrate that the organization knew about alleged abuse but kept it quiet to protect its reputation.
Of 25 files relative to Boy Scout leaders in Virginia, four originated in Richmond, according to a database compiled by the Denver Post.
In the case of the Style classified ad and Troop 410, Boy Scout executives knew which scoutmaster the anonymous notice referenced, according to court documents. The ad ended up in the agency's file on a Hanover Avenue postal clerk — a man described in the Boy Scouts' records as divorced, prone to wearing dark-tinted glasses and, perhaps, a toupee. He was formally banned from Scouting in 1972 following a complaint of sexual abuse on a camping trip that year, according to the court files. Though a written statement from the victim made its way up the Boy Scouts' chain of command and the scoutmaster was dismissed, there's no indication the report was ever forwarded to police.
A year prior, the organization banned a 45-year-old Brady Street man after learning he'd been convicted of "taking pictures of nude boys," according to the files. The man served as a den leader in Cub Scout Pack 413. Another man was banned in 1970 following "charges of homosexuality," according to the court records, and another in 1969 after suspicion of misconduct with boys at a Scout camp.
Since many of the cases went unreported to authorities, Style is in no way able to verify whether the accusations are in fact true. The documents do however attest to the Boy Scouts' response to reports of potential child abuse.
The Boy Scouts have apologized for their handling of the cases, and since have put new procedures in place. "There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and, in certain cases, our response to these incidents, and our efforts to protect youth, were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong," the national president of the Boy Scouts, Wayne Perry, said in a statement.