Confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America on men they suspected of child sex abuse have been released after a two-year-long court battle.
The files, released Thursday by Portland attorney Kelly Clark, reveal some 14,500 pages of documents the Scouts kept on men inside — and in some cases outside — the organization believed to have committed acts of abuse.
Clark held a news conference on Thursday after which he made the files available.
'The stories in those files are real little boys and real stories of abuse'
- Kelly Clark, Portland attorney
"The stories in those files are real little boys and real stories of abuse," Clark told the Seattle Times. "And when the public sees these stories in black and white, I think the level of understanding and frustration about sexual abuse in Scouting is going to be significantly elevated."
The documents date from 1959 to 1985. This is the first time the earliest documents -- those from 1959 to 1971 -- have been made public.
The court-ordered release of the so-called perversion files has prompted the organization to pledge that they will go back into the files and report any offenders who may have not been reported to the police when alleged abuse took place.
That could prompt a new round of criminal prosecutions for offenders who have so far escaped justice.
The Scouts have, until now, argued they did all they could to prevent sex abuse within their ranks by spending a century tracking pedophiles and using those records to keep known sex offenders out of their organization.
The Scouts began keeping the files shortly after their creation in 1910, when pedophilia was largely a crime dealt with privately.
The organization argues that the files helped them track offenders and protect children. But some of the files released in 1991, detailing cases from 1971 to 1991, showed repeated instances of Scouts leaders failing to disclose sex abuse to authorities, even when they had a confession.
A lawsuit culminated in April 2010 with the jury ruling the BSA had failed to protect the plaintiff from a pedophile assistant Scoutmaster in the 1980s, even though that man had previously admitted molesting Scouts. The jury awarded $20 million to the plaintiff.
Files kept before 1971 remained secret, until a judge ruled — and the Oregon Supreme Court agreed — that they should be released.
The Associated Press contributed to this report