The suit says the volunteer leader, Sam Otts, was blacklisted from the Scouts in Georgia. But two years later, he was allowed to join another troop in Arkansas.
An Arkansas lawsuit claims that the Boy Scouts refused to terminate a volunteer leader with a history of sexual predation.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the suit was field Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. The complaint states that the volunteer leader, identified as Sam Otts, was a known sexual predator. While the Scouts were aware of outstanding allegations against Otts, they simply reassigned him to another position within the organization. As Otts remained active, he molested in two prepubescent boys.
The abuse, says the suit, was recurring. Between 1979 and 1980, Otts purportedly assaulted plaintiffs Travis Barkley and Jeffrey Burfeind on multiple occasions. Four other men, whose names have not been released, have joined the litigation.
The Democrat-Gazette notes that the six plaintiffs all name Otts as their abuser. They’re represented by Little Rock-area attorney Joshua Gillispie, whoe says his clients have sued because they’ve obtained new information about the case.
“They’re not alleging that their memories were repressed,” Gillispie said. “What they’ve not known until recently is that the Boy Scouts knew all along that Otts was a pedophile and had abused boys prior to them, allowing him to become a scout leader here in Arkansas.”
Gillispie told the Democrat-Gazette that Otts worked as a scout leader for Boy Scout Troop 16 and Webelos Unit 13. But before that, Otts headed another troop in Mt. Berry, Georgia. There, Boy Scouts leadership determined that Otts was “ineligible” for further volunteering.
However, the Scouts reinstated Otts’ privileges two years later.
“They didn’t tell anybody,” Gillispie said. “They didn’t warn anybody. They held him out to the community as a safe person.”
The Democrat-Gazette notes that Otts’ alleged misconduct was recorded by the Boy Scouts central leadership. Otts’ file, along with thousands of others, was kept confidential until a recent court order mandated their release.
Internally known as “perversion files,” the documents list volunteers accused of misconduct, assault and molestation, blacklisting many from pursuing further opportunities with the Boy Scouts. While the Democrat-Gazette claims the records date back to 1944, other sources say the first entries were inputted decades earlier.
One of Gillispie’s other clients, William Stevens, found out that Otts was mentioned in the “perversion files’ after running a Google search.
However, the Boy Scouts say that Otts’ victims filed their claims outside the state’s expanded, three-year statute of limitations. The “perversion files” were released in 2012, but Stevens didn’t learn of them until 2018, when the suit was filed.
“In the eyes of the Boy Scouts, they should have been scouring the internet every day for any mention of the person who sexually abused them, which is beyond ridiculous,” Gillispie said.
Gillispie noted that the Boy Scouts neither deny that abuse took place nor that they tried concealing it. The organization never reported Otts to law enforcement in either Georgia or Arkansas.
The Democrat-Gazette says it’s unknown whether Otts is dead or alive.