PORTLAND, Ore. - A trove of some 14,500 pages from the Boy Scouts' so-called "perversion files" have been made public, and the files show that on numerous occasions local officials helped cover up abuse allegations.
A Portland attorney held a news conference on Thursday after which he made the files available.
The documents date from 1959 to 1985. The confidential files are the "ineligible volunteer" list the Boy Scouts created in the 1920s to cross-check volunteers.
This is the first time the earliest documents -- those from 1959 to 1971 -- have been made public.
The documents show that in many instances the files succeeded in keeping pedophiles out of Scouting, but many times they did not.
The files are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files, kept at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents and newspaper clippings about legal cases. The files contain details about proven molesters, but also unsubstantiated allegations.
The allegations stretch across the country and to military bases overseas, from a small town in the Adirondacks to downtown Los Angeles.
At the news conference Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the full trove of files secret.
"You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children," said Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.
Wayne Perry, president of Boy Scouts of America, said the group is deeply committed to youth protection, but he acknowledged that in some cases, the organization's responses to allegations of abuse by volunteers "were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong."
"Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families," Perry said in a statement issued Wednesday evening. "While it is difficult to understand or explain individuals' actions from many decades ago, today Scouting is a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse."
The Boy Scouts opposed the release of the internal records and said their confidentiality has encouraged prompt reporting of questionable behavior and privacy for victimized boys and their families.
But the attorneys representing victims in several lawsuits against the Scouts say the group hid evidence from the public and police and that the so-called perversion files offer insight into what they deem a serious problem in the organization.
The secrecy protected more than 1,000 suspected child molesters, said the attorneys, who publicly released the documents during a Thursday news conference at a hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon. The attorneys are also seeking the release of post-1985 files from the Boy Scouts.
The files show that the expelled Scout leaders and volunteers -- all men -- "are sociopathic geniuses," said Clark, who has reviewed the 20,000 pages and is among the attorneys releasing the papers Thursday.
"They fool everybody," he said. "And then they are able to coerce, convince or threaten these kids to stay silent. And you see that play out over and over again in the files."
Clark said he represents more than 100 men who as children were in the Boy Scouts, and he estimates that more than 50 percent of his clients have drug or alcohol problems. At least three of them have committed suicide, he said.
Tim Kosnoff, an attorney in Seattle, said the abuse allegedly inflicted on the men as boys "has a corrosive effect" in which trust, relationship and sexuality issues develop with adulthood.
One former Boy Scout represented by Kosnoff, Keith Early, joined the group at 12, recruited by an assistant Scoutmaster who was a married firefighter with three children and led Scout meetings in a church in Washington state.
Early, now 18, was sexually abused by the Scout leader while helping build a Boy Scout camp on his 42-acre ranch, he said in an interview with CNN. The assistant Scoutmaster was convicted of abusing Early and another boy and is now serving a prison sentence of 10 years to life.
"I felt like I was all alone," Early said. "Just thinking about it makes me angry ... because how could you do that to somebody? How could you bring yourself to do that to somebody who is so innocent and has done nothing wrong?"
The Associated Press obtained copies of the files weeks in advance of Thursday's release and conducted an extensive review of them.
In many instances -- more than a third, according to the Scouts' own count -- police weren't told about the reports of abuse.
And even when they were, sometimes local law enforcement still did nothing, seeking to protect the name of Scouting over their victims.
Victims like three brothers, growing up in northeast Louisiana.
On the afternoon of Aug. 10, 1965, their distraught mother walked into the third floor of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office. A 31-year-old scoutmaster, she told the chief criminal deputy, had raped one of her sons and molested two others.
Six days later, the scoutmaster, an unemployed airplane mechanic, sat down in front of a microphone in the same station, said he understood his rights and confessed: He had sexually abused the woman's sons more than once.
"I don't know how to tell it," the man told a sheriff's deputy. "They just occurred -- I don't know an explanation, why we done it or I done it or wanted to do it or anything else it just -- an impulse I guess or something."
Seven days later, the decision was made not to pursue charges against the scoutmaster.
The last sliver of hope for justice for the abuse of two teenagers and an 11-year-old boy slipped away in a confidential letter from a Louisiana Scouts executive to the organization's national personnel division in New Jersey.
"This subject and Scouts were not prosecuted," the executive wrote, "to save the name of Scouting."
Our Scripps National Investigative Team and 7NEWS are finishing up a six-month investigation regarding 30,000 documents already obtained and reviewed.
The three-part investigative series will air starting Oct. 28 on 7NEWS.
Watch 7NEWS and refresh this page for updates.