OCEAN COUNTY – A law firm is trying to find cases of people abused by Boy Scout leaders in order to file suit on their behalf.
Jeff Anderson and Associates listed thousands of alleged abusers within the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America organization.
The only two local ones were from decades ago. They might not be living in the same town anymore. In fact, they might not even be living. Both had been blacklisted from the organization.
The first was in Toms River in 1961. William Pratt was either 30 or 31 at the time, working as a beautician and living in Toms River. He faced charges of contributing to the delinquency of minors, possessing pornographic materials, and “unnatural sex acts with 14 and 15-year-old boys,” according to a news clipping. Letters by scouting officials had prepared his blacklisting before his arrest made it to newspapers. It was noted he used to be a scout master in Asbury Park.
The other was in 1988. John Fitzgerald was 32 at the time, working at a gas station, and living at the scout camp in Waretown. He pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. The Boy Scouts blacklisted him within days of the arrest.
The Boy Scouts issued a statement to media saying that they “care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting. We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice. Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children.”
The organization has used a Volunteer Screening Database since the 1920s to keep out people accused of abuse or inappropriate conduct, they said. They don’t have to be convicted of a crime, just a violation of scout policy. It’s a nationwide database, so someone can’t offend in one state and apply in another.
“At no time have we ever knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with youth, and we mandate that all leaders, volunteers and staff members nationwide immediately report any abuse allegation to law enforcement,” the statement read.
Specifically referring to the list the legal firm was using, they stated that all of the names are publicly available, and they had been removed from scouting and reported to law enforcement. No one on the law firm’s list was a secret, since a majority of them have been made public through media stories and police reports.
The scouts have a toll-free helpline (1-844-726-8871) and email contact address (email@example.com) for those who have concerns about inappropriate behavior.