In 1961, Thomas Hacker, then in his mid-20s, was arrested on an assault and battery charge for conduct involving Boy Scouts at a campout. Though the case was dismissed, and Hacker was initially set for removal from his position as a scoutmaster, a plea from a prominent board member saved his position. Two troops and nine years later, he was arrested for molesting 51 boys, most of them students at his school, reports the Ventura County Star.
Hacker was barred from the Boy Scouts. One year later, he used a fake name to become a scoutmaster in the Chicago suburbs. He was arrested for taking indecent liberties with a child. He was again barred. By the mid-1980s, he was again a scoutmaster in the Chicago area. He resigned in 1987, months before he was indicted for molesting several more boys.
The plaintiff, then ten-years-old, was one of his mid-1980s victims.
The lawsuit blames the Boy Scouts of America for enabling Hacker’s behavior and claims that the “perversion files” and ineligible list system “did not function as it was intended, was flawed, and in many cases ineffective,” reports the Chicago Tribune.
One of the more interesting aspects of the case that will have to be determined is the applicability of Illinois’ statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse cases.
The current status of the law is that a lawsuit for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse must be brought within ten years of the date a person turns eighteen, or within five years of the date the victim discovers or should have discovered the abuse and any resulting injury.
As applied to a mid-1980s ten-year-old victim, the ten years after turning eighteen has long since passed. The lawsuit, therefore, will have to claim that the abuse and an injury weren’t discovered until some point in the last five years.
Another important question to ask is this: what level of culpability does the Boy Scouts have in this particular victim’s case? Hacker changed troops, cities, and even states, and employed aliases and fake names, to re-enter the Boy Scouts after being barred multiple times. Considering the technological context of the 1980s (think filing cabinets full of paper and fax machines), is it reasonable to expect that a private organization would have unearthed Hacker’s past had they looked harder?
Negligent or not, the Boy Scouts should be prepared. This is likely the first of many lawsuits to come after 20,000 pages of pedophile files were released earlier this year.
- Consult a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Boy Scouts Release ‘Perversion Files’ Documenting Thousands of Sexual Abuse Cases (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- Alleged victim sues Boy Scouts for failing to protect him from molester (Chicago Sun-Times)
- Sexual-abuse lawsuits: Illinois Supreme Court clarifies statute-of-limitations law (Chicago Tribune)