HUSH-HUSH: There’s the Penn State football hidden-ball molestation play, the Catholic Church Hail Mary molestation pass, and, in Santa Barbara, the Boy Scout molestation meritless badge.
A Santa Barbara family is seeking punitive damages against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) because their 13-year-old son was molested by a Scout volunteer and because a top area Scout executive allegedly tried to prevent the boy’s mother from reporting the abuse to authorities.
After the 13-year-old told his mother that he was abused by 400-pound Scout volunteer Al Steven Stein in late 2007, she was “shocked and angry.” But when she told area Scout executive David Tate about it, he urged her not to report it, according to a civil suit pending in Superior Court. “It is not necessary,” Tate said, according to the mother.
Her response: “I said this is a sex crime, and I want the police to investigate.”
The Scouts will investigate, Tate told her, according to the suit. “I thought it was really strange that he didn’t want me to call the police,” the mother told me. “I insisted, and he said, ‘Well, go ahead.’” She didn’t pull a Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach, and assume she’d done enough just by telling Tate.
That left the burden on the family, which has suffered for it. “The real hero is my son, who was very brave to come forward but has been treated like an outcast by the Scouts,” the mother told me. “We’ll never know,” she added, how many other youngsters were saved from abuse by his courage. “He wants to see that other boys aren’t molested.”
Tim Hale, the family’s attorney, described Stein to me as “a ticking time bomb.” Stein eventually pleaded no contest, violated probation, and served a prison term. He is now a registered sex offender and is said to be homeless but has an attorney.
The area’s Scouting community, instead of congratulating the boy for coming forward to expose a molester, turned its back on him, said his mother. With no support from area Scouting and with Stein, now 33, back on the street, she said her son is traumatized, in fear, and extremely reluctant to leave the house.
After Tate was unable to convince the mother not to report the case, he warned Stein, who then confronted the boy, adding to the trauma, the lawsuit contends. Stein also began a pattern of “stalking” the boy, the mother said.
After the mother insisted on reporting to sheriff’s deputies, she said Scout Troop 36 in Goleta shunned the family. One top BSA leader in the area “really let me have it and told me that my son was a liar and he hallucinated.” Even after charges were filed against Stein for molesting her son and an 8-year-old non-Scout, she said, “I think they wanted him back in.” She said people she met told her that “the parents wanted him back in, whether convicted or acquitted.”
Soon after she first notified authorities, someone made a false report to county Child Welfare Services officials, she said: An investigator appeared at her door with allegations that the family was allowing the boy to be in the company of a sex offender and that he might have to be placed in foster care. When she told the investigator that the family had immediately reported the case to authorities, the case was dropped, the mother told me. She considers the false report an attempt to intimidate and silence her. Oddly, even after Stein’s conviction and prison term, “I’ve never had a parent” show any support for the family, she said.
Long before the molestation, there were numerous red flags about Stein’s bizarre behavior. In 2002, the hulking man was bouncing a Scout leader’s young son off his stomach and was told to stop. A year later, he had the 12-year-old daughter of another troop leader on his lap, to which her mother objected, according to the suit. In 2005, Stein was pulling down the pants of scouts and, in 2006, began making sexual comments to scouts and was told by leaders to stop.
The civil trial is scheduled for April 11, 2012. The family’s attorneys, Hale and David Nye, are seeking the BSA’s so-called secret “perversion files” involving thousands of cases of alleged molestation.
“Many of the claims in this case have previously been dismissed,” said Tom Delaney, an attorney representing the BSA. “We disagree with these claims and believe our witnesses will support it.”
Tate has since been promoted to the position of chief financial officer for a Scout group in New York.