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Lawsuit claims Boy Scouts failed to protect boy from molester

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 10:00 a.m. CDT
(Photo by Illinois Department of Corrections via Chicago Tribune/MCT)
"By late 1971, the Boy Scouts of America learned that Thomas Hacker, pictured, had again been arrested on charges of taking indecent liberties with a child," attorney Chris Hurley said. "A BSA official indicated that 'under no circumstances do we want [Hacker] registered in scouting.' "Yet sure enough, Hacker resurfaced as a committee chairman and scoutmaster in the Chicago Area Council in 1983 or 1984."

(MCT) — CHICAGO — An Illinois man who more than 27 years ago was identified as a victim of a notorious Burbank, Ill., pedophile filed suit Tuesday against his alleged abuser as well as the Boy Scouts for failing to protect him.

The man, 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 Christopher Hurley, his attorney.

Memories of the abuse only resurfaced when the Boy Scouts of American in October released their long-secret “perversion files” under the orders of an Oregon court overseeing a civil case against the organization. The man, who is 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 boys. 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.

“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 kids who might be vulnerable, McCarter said.

Hacker told a psychiatrist he’d 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 victims contacted police.

“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 a large amount 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 victims in one of the civil lawsuits.

The Boy Scouts declined to comment, issuing a statement saying they 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.

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