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Lawsuit seeks release of Boy Scout sexual abuse files

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 5/1/2019 By DAVID PORTER, Associated Press
Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, holds up a physical fitness badge used by the Boy Scouts of America as Richard Halvorson looks on during a news conference in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Halvorson is alleging sexual abuse in a lawsuit filed against the Boy Scouts of America. The abuse occurred under the guise of trying to earn the fitness badge when Halvorson was an 11-year-old boy scout. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) © The Associated Press Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, holds up a physical fitness badge used by the Boy Scouts of America as Richard Halvorson looks on during a news conference in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Halvorson is alleging sexual abuse in a lawsuit filed against the Boy Scouts of America. The abuse occurred under the guise of trying to earn the fitness badge when Halvorson was an 11-year-old boy scout. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEWARK, N.J. — A man who said he was abused by a Boy Scouts troop leader in the 1980s announced a lawsuit against the organization Tuesday, joining others nationwide who are pushing to open long-secret files containing the names of scout volunteers who were banned or considered risks for child sexual abuse.

Richard Halvorson, a retired 20-year veteran of the Atlantic City police department, said he was 11 when he was abused in 1982. According to copies of Boy Scout files from the late 1980s obtained by his attorneys, the troop leader allegedly forced scouts to strip naked in a bathroom and perform maneuvers such as balance exercises while blindfolded in order to receive a physical fitness pin.

The suit charges the Boy Scouts of America with creating a public nuisance and with civil conspiracy for concealing "a known danger of leaders grooming scouts and their families to access scouts and sexually abuse them in and out of scouting."

It seeks unspecified punitive damages and also seeks the release of files dating back to 1916 that have been referred to as "ineligible volunteer files," ''red flag files" or "perversion files."

About 5,000 have been made public as a result of court action, but others remain confidential.

The number of lawsuits against the Boy Scouts is expected to spike as some states have begun adjusting their statute-of-limitations laws governing long-ago sexual abuse, spurred by the Catholic Church's clergy sex abuse scandal.

New York state has passed a law that will allow such lawsuits starting in August. A similar bill in New Jersey has reached Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's desk. Bills also are pending in Pennsylvania and California.

Halvorson's lawsuit was filed under different statutes than the one Murphy is expected to sign in New Jersey, his attorneys said Tuesday.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, the Boy Scouts of America said Halvorson's alleged abuser was suspended and banned from scouting after the allegations surfaced in late 1986, and that the allegations were forwarded to law enforcement at the time.

"We fully support and advocate for the creation of a national registry of those who are suspected of child abuse or inappropriate behavior with a child, and thus allowing all youth serving organizations to share and access such information," the statement continued.

Halvorson and his attorneys said that type of transparency is crucial and that internal safeguards aren't enough. They said Tuesday they believe his alleged abuser also worked as a schoolteacher and may have been involved in another youth scouting organization, pursuits that would have put him in close contact with children.

"If this happened in in criminal court, we'd be going door to door telling you, 'This guy lives down the street,'" Halvorson said. "So it's not good enough to have their safeguards and still keep it quiet. They need to release it and tell us what they know."

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