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Winston-Salem Boy Scouts chapter ignored child sexual abuse by Scout leaders, lawsuit alleges
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Winston-Salem Boy Scouts chapter ignored child sexual abuse by Scout leaders, lawsuit alleges

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A new lawsuit alleges that officials with the local Boy Scouts of America chapter did nothing to prevent Scout leaders from sexually abusing 21 children over a six-decade period. The earliest allegation is from 1960 and the most recent one is from 2010.

Inez de Ondarza Simmons, an attorney representing the 21 men, filed the lawsuit Nov. 29 in the Forsyth Superior Court against Old Hickory Council of Boy Scouts of America Inc. Also named as defendants in the new lawsuit are 10 unidentified former Scout leaders who allegedly sexually abused the 21 men when they participated in the Boy Scouts program.

Another lawsuit filed in Forsyth Superior Court on the same day alleges that an 11-year-old boy was sexually assaulted multiple times by a Scout leader, George Hauser III, while on a camping trip in Mount Airy in 1978 and that another Scout leader, Alonzo Funches, allowed this to happen. A third lawsuit was filed last year alleging that a Scout leader, Claude E. Macemore, sexually abused a 14-year-old boy in 1972. Hauser and Funches have both died. A cellphone associated with Macemore, who is in his late 70s, did not appear to work.

Lisa Lanier, the attorney who filed both lawsuits, was not immediately available Tuesday.

Window to file suits closing

Numerous lawsuits involving past child sexual abuse have been filed because of a state law that gives victims a two-year window to file such claims. That two-year window ends on Dec. 31.

The national Boy Scouts of America entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020 to halt numerous individual lawsuits and create a fund for men who said they were sexually abused as children. Attorneys for the bankruptcy case have announced a tentative settlement, according to the Associated Press.

The settlement, which would have to be approved by the courts, would include an $800 million contribution from the Boy Scouts of America’s largest insurer. More than 82,000 sexual abuse claimants face a Dec. 28 deadline to vote on a previously announced Boy Scouts reorganization plan, the Associated Press reported.

Old Hickory Council of Boy Scouts of America Inc., located at 6600 Silas Creek Parkway, serves Scouts in Alleghany, Ashe, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit with 21 plaintiffs said that Old Hickory Council officials knew that they had employed sexual abusers as Scout leaders but still recruited boys into the program. The lawsuit said that the children and their parents were made to believe that the children would be safe in a program that allowed the children to go on overnight camping trips with adults. The lawsuit said sexual abusers were allowed to be Scout leaders and given opportunity to groom young boys for sexual abuse.

“These cases are part of the BSA bankruptcy litigation,” Drew Armstrong, executive director of the Old Hickory Council of BSA, said Tuesday. Armstrong noted that the national BSA is working on a settlement to compensate victims of child sexual abuse.

“Many of these cases are decades old and prior to the implementation of our current youth protection training and standards,” he said. “While we realize that one incident of abuse is too many, we’ve made great efforts in virtually eliminating these issues in our organization.”

Simmons, the plaintiffs’ attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

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‘Perversion Files’

According to the lawsuit, the national Boy Scouts of America maintained what were known as “Ineligible Volunteer Files” that were intended to keep sexual abusers out.

“For more than 90 years, BSA has ignored these files while pedophiles sexually abused young boys,” the lawsuit said. “More than 8,000 scout leaders preying upon young boys were revealed publicly in these files for the first time in 2012. Additionally, more than 12,000 children reported being sexually abused.”

The most files were in the “Perversion” category, and the lawsuit alleges that the national BSA created more than 12 Perversion files every year. In 2020, after filing for bankruptcy protection, the national BSA admitted, the lawsuit alleges, that “predators used the BSA organization to gain access to children, and volunteers or employees of the BSA or Local Councils did not effectively act on allegations and transgression as the BSA would have wanted them to and as the organization’s policies mandate today.”

The lawsuit said that the Old Hickory Council BSA chapter never notified boys or their parents about the potential for sexual abuse or to advise them about how to report allegations of sexual abuse.

“Rather, Defendant BSA Local Council remained silent,” the lawsuit alleges.

As a result, the lawsuit said, the 21 men were sexually abused, raped and fondled by Scout leaders.

The men have suffered severe and permanent emotional distress and other problems, including suicide attempts, substance abuse, issues with sexual intimacy, struggles to maintain employment and depression, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges claims of negligence; negligent hiring, supervision and retention; and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional harm.

At least six men with Winston-Salem ties were identified last year in the “Perversion Files,” with the majority of known local abuse happening in the late ‘70s and mid-’80s. Five of the men were convicted of sexual abuse, according to offender information from the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

That includes James Thomas Davis, a former employee of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., who was convicted in 2015 of four counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. The charges stemmed from events more than 30 years ago when he led the Boy Scout troop at Shiloh Baptist Church.

The list also includes Phillippe Frederic Verheyen, an former executive with Integon Insurance. He was charged in 1989 with molesting at least four boys between the ages of 11 and 14 on Boy Scout camping trips between 1977 and 1984. He was convicted of 23 counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor. He was sentenced to five years of active prison time and given a 20-year suspended sentence on the grounds he performed 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.

The other abusers listed are John Edward Horton, Robert DelReal and Rickey Martin Vernon.

Macemore is also listed in the Perversion files.

336-727-7326

@mhewlettWSJ

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