Delaware man sues Boy Scouts, Mormons over sex abuse

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Delaware man sued the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday over childhood sexual abuse committed by the scoutmaster at his church-sponsored troop.

Melvin Novak sued in state court in Philadelphia, charging in part that newly released Boy Scout “perversion files” show the organization hid abuse claims for years.

“They knew about this conduct, they knew what was going on, and they covered it up in the most despicable way,” lawyer Stewart J. Eisenberg said at a news conference attended by Mr. Novak and his father.

The lawsuit names the larger Mormon church and the Downingtown-area temple Mr. Novak attended. The church did not immediately return a message left at its Utah headquarters. The Boy Scouts called child abuse “intolerable” and said it regrets the past abuse of Scouts, while noting it has not seen Mr.  Novak’s lawsuit.

His abuser, 61-year-old Vance Hein, is in prison for a parole violation related to his 1999 misdemeanor conviction in Mr. Novak’s case. He originally got probation but now is serving 15 to 30 years for possessing child pornography, Mr. Eisenberg said.

Mr. Novak, who at 28 now manages a store, said the abuse made him “a quitter” when it came to school and jobs, and plunged him into years of substance abuse.

“After all that, my childhood just fell apart,” Mr. Novak said. “It took away a lot of accomplishments and experiences I can’t get back.”

The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sex crimes, but Mr. Novak has said he wants his name released to heighten awareness of the issue.

The Boy Scout files — more than 14,000 pages of secret documents compiled from 1959 to 1985 — show that police, prosecutors, pastors and scout leaders quietly shielded scoutmasters and others who allegedly molested children. In response, the Scouts have apologized and said their response to the allegations were “plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.”

“We deeply regret that there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday.

His suit faults the church for not doing background checks on Hein, who had gone East after serving as a scout leader in California, Mr. Eisenberg said. The lawyer wants to investigate the reason for that move, given the alleged practice of quietly removing scoutmasters amid sex-abuse complaints.

Mr. Novak said he was sexually assaulted at Hein’s home, on camping trips and on a trip to Canada, a trip that motivated him to go to authorities. He was 15 and had been abused for more than a year.

Hein, he said, had groomed him over the years with gifts and rewards.

“From the time I was 8 years old, this guy was like Santa Claus,” he said.

Mr. Novak quit the Mormon church, but his father remains active at the congregation where Hein led the Boy Scout troop for years.

“Evil people can fool us all,” the elder Mr. Novak said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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