Ten Boy Scout leaders have been accused of sexually abusing children in 11 Child Victims Act lawsuits filed in Western New York against the Boy Scouts in the past 3½ months.
The oldest allegation involves abuse in 1958 involving a 13-year-old boy at Troop 547 in Lackawanna. The most recent abuse allegedly occurred in the mid-1980s at Troop 565 in Depew.
The Boy Scouts have filed a response to only one of the lawsuits, a case that alleges former Troop 421 Scoutmaster Thomas Watkins sexually abused a Boy Scout who was 13 years old on about 15 occasions in 1969.
The Boy Scouts admitted that the 63-year-old plaintiff in that case was a member of Troop 421 in 1969 and that Watkins was a registered scout leader there at the time. But it said it lacked sufficient information to know whether Watkins sexually abused the plaintiff, who is a Cheektowaga resident. If there was abuse, Watkins was responsible for it, not the Boy Scouts, because Watkins’ alleged conduct was unforeseeable, the organization said.
The Boy Scouts also contended that it should not be held liable for any damages because New York State's Child Victims Act is unconstitutional.
"While Mr. Watkins is not currently registered with Scouting, upon learning of these reports we took immediate action to preclude him from future participation in our programs," the Boy Scouts said in a statement.
The Buffalo News could not reach Watkins for comment.
Across New York State, 61 Child Victims Act lawsuits have been filed through Friday against the Boy Scouts of America in the past five months, since Aug. 14. That's when a one-year window opened for childhood sexual abuse victims to file suits over decades-old allegations that previously were barred by the state's statute of limitations.
" ... We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting," the Boys Scouts said in a statement to The Buffalo News. "We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our program to abuse innocent children."
Local lawsuits involving the Boy Scouts include these:
• A former Boy Scout accused former Scoutmaster Douglas Nail of Troop 565 in Depew in a lawsuit of molesting him from 1983 to 1987 when he was 11 to 15 years old. Nail, a Depew resident, is named as a defendant, along with the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts' confidential files indicate that Nail resigned as scoutmaster of Troop 565 in 1984 after he was accused of fondling a Boy Scout during a sleepover at his apartment. The Scouts' records do not indicate that the Boy Scouts notified law enforcement officers about the allegation. Nail was a coach for the Depew Saints Hockey Club when he was arrested in 2004 on federal charges of possessing more than 600 images of child pornography. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2004. Nail was released from prison in 2013. He did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
• In a lawsuit containing the oldest allegation, former Scout leader Raymond W. Culbertson of Troop 547 in Lackawanna was accused of molesting a 13- to 14-year-old Boy Scout in 1958 and 1959. Culbertson resigned as the adviser for the Explorer post there in 1961, a few months before three Scouts accused him of immoral acts. The mother of one of the Scouts wrote a letter to the Boy Scouts complaining that Culbertson had attempted to have her son commit an immoral act upon Culbertson. The Boy Scouts put Culbertson in their perversion files in 1961, and in 1973 barred him from becoming a leader at a Boy Scout troop in Pennsylvania, according to the Scouts’ files.
• Ronald C. Williams, a retired Buffalo police officer who has served prison sentences in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania for child sex abuse felony convictions, was accused in a lawsuit by Bob O’Donnell of molesting him when he was O’Donnell’s Cub Scout leader in the mid-1970s. Williams was cubmaster for Cub Pack 588 in Blasdell, according to multiple media accounts from the 1970s. O’Donnell told The Buffalo News that Williams molested him at least 10 times on canoeing and camping trips on Eighteen Mile Creek. Williams is serving a sentence of up to 15 years in a prison in Waymart, Pa., for a 2006 conviction on an indecent assault charge involving a victim under the age of 13.
• A Hamlin man accused Scout leader Norman Grimm in a lawsuit of sexually abusing him when he was 11 and 12 years old in the mid-1970s. Grimm was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2008 for molesting three young boys in his Ryan Street home. Grimm was also sentenced to 25 years in prison on federal child pornography charges. He remains in custody at a low-security federal prison in Butner, N.C.
In a statement to The News, the Boy Scouts said that it "has taken significant steps over many years to ensure that we respond aggressively and effectively to reports of sexual abuse. We believe victims and remove individuals based on only allegations of inappropriate behavior."