Courts – A suit claims the group was aware of sexual abuse but let two leaders stay around boys
Friday, February 01, 2008

PETER ZUCKERMAN

The Oregonian Staff

A Portland man sued the Boy Scouts of America and its local Cascade Pacific Council for more than $3 million Thursday, alleging sexual abuse by two troop leaders in the mid-1970s.

The case brings to at least six the number of people in Portland alleging sexual abuse and suing the Boy Scouts. Together, the suits seek more than $28 million in damages.

The case filed Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleges that the Boy Scouts allowed two Scoutmasters, identified as Steven Terry Hill and Thomas Hensley, to stay in contact with boys after they knew of sexual abuse.

"We also intend to prove that the Boy Scouts were well aware, by at least the 1960s, that they had a serious, institution-wide infestation of child abuse, stretching across the country, involving hundreds of predators and thousands of children," said a statement from Portland attorney Kelly Clark, who is spearheading the sexual abuse suits.

Hill, 58, is one of about 50 Oregon leaders expelled by the Boy Scouts for sexual abuse between 1970 and 1990 and more than 5,100 leaders expelled nationally since 1946, according to confidential Boy Scouts files and summaries obtained by The Oregonian.

Hill registered as Scoutmaster of Troop No. 76 in 1975 and molested three boys in the troop, according to the internal Scouts records. He was convicted of child sexual abuse in the 1990s.

Hensley does not appear to have a criminal record and does not appear in the Scouts’ internal records. The Oregonian could not reach Hensley for comment; court documents do not provide his age, middle name or place of residence, or say whether he is still alive.

Officials with the Cascade Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts of America declined to comment, noting that they had not been served by the court.

Clark said his client, an unidentified man now in his mid-40s, met Hill and Hensley at Gregory Heights Middle School in Northeast Portland at a recruiting meeting for "high adventure" Scouting with Troop 76. The lawsuit alleges that the Scoutmasters fondled and sexually abused the boy at least twice a week for two years starting in 1976.

Hill resigned in 1978, according to Scouts records.

In 1991, Hill was convicted of four counts of sodomy, five counts of delivering controlled substances to a minor and three counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor. He remains in prison.

The prosecutor in the case said Hill had an "almost amazing ability to manipulate teenage boys," using his work as a photographer, his purported training as a juvenile lawyer and his role as president of "The High Adventure Club."