Illinois man says memories resurfaced when he found former Scout leader in the records
December 05, 2012|By Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune reporter
An Illinois man who more than 27 years ago was identified as a victim of a notorious Burbank pedophile filed suit Tuesday against the ex-Scout leader as well as the Boy Scouts, saying the group failed to protect him.
The plaintiff, who filed the lawsuit anonymously in Cook County Circuit Court, had “compartmentalized” his memories of the sexual abuse, which allegedly happened on numerous occasions in 1985 when he was a 10-year-old Boy Scout, said his attorney, Christopher Hurley.
Memories of the alleged abuse resurfaced only when the Boy Scouts of America in October released their long-secret “perversion files” under the orders of an Oregon court overseeing a civil case against the organization. The man, now married with a family, looked online through the files for his former Scout leader, Thomas Hacker, Hurley said.
“(They) knew that their organization attracted pedophiles … so there is a higher duty on the Boy Scouts to make sure children were protected,” Hurley said.
Hacker, now 76, is serving a 100-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a boy. The father of three was able to keep working as a Scout leader of a troop that served the Burbank and Oak Lawn area despite being convicted of sex crimes against youths in Indianapolis in 1970 and Mount Prospect in 1971.
Hacker told a psychiatrist he had abused more than 100 boys. A state agency found that he had abused 34 boys in Illinois. He was arrested in 1988 after parents of one of the boys contacted police.
“He was very shrewd,” said retired Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Jim McCarter, who prosecuted the criminal case. Hacker used his Boy Scouts post and his job as Burbank Park District director to work with children, looking for those who might be vulnerable, McCarter said.
“He would access these kids when they would go on camping trips,” McCarter said. “Sometimes the parents were on the trip. When they were having the men’s meeting — playing cards or drinking beer — he was creeping into tents.”
“I saw him do things to kids at almost every camp-out,” one 15-year-old boy testified at the trial.
Civil lawsuits brought in the years immediately after Hacker’s conviction were settled for large amounts of money.
“The abuse was repetitive, disgusting and it’s something the organization could’ve and should’ve and did know about,” said attorney James Gierach, who represented two of the boys in one of the civil lawsuits.
The Boy Scouts declined to comment, issuing a statement saying the group had not yet seen the lawsuit.
“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 statement said.