They Allege Abuse Decades Ago in Boy Scouts. Now They’re Suing, Thanks to New California Law
By Brianna Calix and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks
January 16, 2020
David Green learned valuable skills during his few years in the Boy Scouts of America Sequoia Council – first aid, CPR and many survival techniques.
“Now I don’t even go camping anymore because of what happened on the campouts at the Boy Scouts camp they had, Camp Chawanakee, up there at Shaver Lake,” the 62-year-old Fresno man said.
Green alleges that he and his fellow Scouts were sexually abused by Alan Craig Dunlap, a former assistant Boy Scout leader, who was convicted of child molestation.
Green says the shame and guilt that followed, common feelings for survivors of abuse, drove him to use drugs and alcohol starting at a young age. He used drugs, primarily cocaine, for decades. He struggled to keep a job, lost custody of his daughter and went through several rehabilitation programs.
He told no one about the abuse until about one year ago when he and his wife faced marital problems.
“This abuse, all my life, I buried it. … She’s the first person I talked about it with, ever,” he said in an interview with The Bee. “She told me that it wasn’t my fault, and I was a victim, and I shouldn’t have all this shame and guilt.”
Now, a new California law allows Green and other survivors of sexual abuse a new avenue to seek justice. Assembly Bill 218, known as the Child Victims Act, signed into law last year, provides a three-year “look-back window” starting this month in which sexual abuse claims that have since passed the statute of limitations can be pursued. Courts now can triple the amount of damages awarded to a victim if there was an attempted cover-up.
At least one other survivor, a man who was abused at a Northern California Air Force base, has filed suit under the new law related to his time in the Boy Scouts. Attorneys expect at least a dozen more will be filed in the coming months.
In both of the newly filed cases involving the Boy Scouts, the convicted Scout leaders moved to a different state and reoffended.
Now Green is sending a message to other survivors.
“I think that every child who’s a grownup now and was molested through the Boy Scouts should step up because it wasn’t your fault,” he said. “You were the victim, and this is something you really need to do. It will help with the closure and get justice for what happened to you.”
Green’s lawsuit, filed this month in Fresno Superior Court, doesn’t name specific defendants. It does, however, reference the Boy Scouts and the so-called “perversion files” the organization kept. It also references Alan Craig Dunlap’s abuse of Scouts in his troop during Scouting activities, during camping trips and at Scout Camp.
The lawsuit alleges Dunlap abused Green from the time he was 10 until he was about 13. “Dunlap was a known sexual predator of children,” the lawsuit reads. The Scouts should have known that Dunlap’s sexual abuse “could not be ‘cured’ through treatment or counseling” and prevented victims from coming forward. The lawsuit also alleges officials of the Scouts and local troops failed to protect children by attempting to conceal the abuse to save their own reputations.
Green’s lawsuit doesn’t specify the amount of damages he seeks. It also seeks “non-economic damages according to proof;” attorney’s fees, incurred costs for filing the lawsuit, and other reliefs.
Green told The Bee he’s taking legal action because he wants justice and closure.
“I don’t want it to happen to anybody’s child in the future,” he said. “If I can help even just one, that’s a good thing I’m doing.”
In response to a request for comment from The Bee for this story, Boy Scouts of America submitted a statement:
“First and foremost, we care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, we pay for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward.
“It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement. We are committed to fulfilling our social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting, while also ensuring that we carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities through our programs.”
The statement outlined steps the organization has taken over the years to respond “aggressively and effectively” to reports of sexual abuse, including: mandatory youth protection training, mandatory background checks, banned one-on-one interactions, mandatory law enforcement reporting and a volunteer screening database.
“These layers of youth protection are among the strongest safeguards found in any youth-serving organization,” the statement says.
The Sequoia Council did not respond to an email request for comment.
TOLL OF ABUSE
Green remembers the last time he saw Dunlap.
The Scout boys’ families were close, and Dunlap was friends with their parents. Green’s mother was a single mom raising two boys, so she thought the Boy Scouts would give her sons a strong male role model.
According to Green, Dunlap often picked him and the other boys up from school and took them home when he knew their mom wouldn’t be home. There, he chased them around the house, tickling them. Eventually, the tickling turned into spanking – and then fondling.
That last day, Green turned and kicked Dunlap in the genitals so hard the man, then in his 20s, fell face flat. Green said the other boys “came after” him for that.
Not long after, his mom learned from a Bee story that Dunlap faced criminal charges for child molestation.
“She came in screaming at me, asking, ‘Did this man ever touch you?’ She knew him and trusted him. She was very upset,” Green said. “She was furious. I saw murder in her eyes.”
Green said he lied to his mother because of the guilt and shame he felt. He quit the Boy Scouts only five merit badges away from becoming an Eagle Scout, he said. He never spoke about the abuse with law enforcement.
Later, at 14, Green began smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol to bury his shame and guilt stemming from the abuse.
“I isolated myself from everybody,” he said. “The people in school that had the same thing done to them, I just didn’t want to see them.”
David.jpg David Green sits in his home in Fresno on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2020. Green is has decided to come forward with his story about being molested as a Boy Scout by a scouting volunteer back in the early 1970’s. CRAIG KOHLRUSS CKOHLRUSS@FRESNOBEE.COM
For 30 years, he continued to use drugs and eventually landed in jail. He completed a number of live-in rehabilitation programs. He doesn’t have a relationship with his daughter after he lost visitation rights and she was adopted.
“With drugs and alcohol, you lose everything: friends, money, jobs, family – everything. Self-dignity, self-respect.”
He’s been clean for 14 years and is retired. When he first told his wife about the abuse, he cried.
He saw reports about the new law that opened up the statute of limitations for sex abuse survivors. He decided to hire an attorney and file a claim.
“This is something I need to do to help prevent it from happening to children in the future,” he said. “The Boy Scouts didn’t warn parents. ... They need to be held accountable for what they’ve let go on since 1910.”
In January 1973, Dunlap, 24 at the time, pleaded guilty to four counts of child molestation in Fresno Superior Court.
He also was arrested in Madera County on suspicion of 55 counts of sexual perversion, sodomy and child molesting, allegedly committed during Scout outings. Authorities said six Scouts and their parents filed complaints in Madera County accusing Dunlap of sexual misconduct on Scout retreats, The Bee reported at the time.
Madera County agreed to drop the charges against Dunlap if he was prosecuted in Fresno County.
A Fresno Superior Court judge concluded that Dunlap was a mentally disordered sex offender, and he was committed to Atascadero State Hospital. It’s unclear what kind of treatment Dunlap underwent or how long he stayed or when he was released from Atascadero State Hospital.
Dunlap was one of five Valley men named in the Boy Scout’s “perversion files,” a list of thousands of ineligible volunteers accused of sexually abusing children that the Scouts was forced to release after a court order.
“The Boy Scouts are unique in the world of youth-serving organizations in that they had, really, one of largest pedophile libraries ever but failed to really learn from it in terms of training leaders, training children and warning parents,” said Michael Pfau, a Seattle-based attorney and partner with the firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, which specializes in childhood sexual abuse cases.
Dunlap’s 17-page file appears to have been created in January 1973 after he pleaded guilty to his crimes.
“From an examination of the police department file, and talking to the parents, this man is guilty of conduct unbecoming a leader of boys, and should never again be registered in any way in the Scout Program,” reads a statement signed by the Sequoia Council executive.
The file includes a memo about court proceedings in which a 9-year-old victim testified that he received spankings on a regular basis at Dunlap’s house. The boy told his father, who became upset after the boy further explained that the spankings involved removal of his outer and under garments. The father questioned the boy further and learned Dunlap fondled the boy’s genitals through his clothing.
The file includes two letters from parents to Jack M. Perz, the Scout executive of the Sequoia Council in 1973, and the Fresno County district attorney. The names of the parents and their sons are redacted.
One parent sought compensation from the Sequoia Council for medical and psychiatric bills incurred. Perz responded that the Scouts learned of Dunlap’s behavior at the end of December 1972 and contacted Fresno police.
A grandmother wrote to the district attorney expressing concern that Dunlap was arrested and released from jail without posting bail.
“With all of these facts ... it leaves us with the feeling that someone, some place has attempted to hold this thing down for Mr. Dunlap and try to protect him from further charges against him and to cover it up. It is an almost incredible story, how this man operated and the number of boys that he has abused and used. ... The case is far reaching and the full damages done by this man can, I am sure, never be known,” she wrote.
REINSTATED AND REOFFENDED
Dunlap worked again with the Scouts in the 1980s in Texas and molested more children.
The perversion file includes a composite image that appears to be a mug shot of Dunlap taken in December 1987. It’s accompanied by a Bryan, Texas, newspaper clipping dated Oct. 30, 1987 reporting Dunlap pleaded guilty to molestation charges. The newspaper article reported Dunlap was a Scoutmaster and Sunday school teacher with a history of sex offenses.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice booked Dunlap in January 1993 for a 25-year sentence for indecency with a child. He was placed on parole in May 2002, which he completed in May 2017.
Investigators who work for Green’s attorneys said they have evidence indicating Dunlap is alive.
“The big question for the Scouts and in our lawsuit is how the hell did a convicted pedophile end up in one of your Scout troops?” Pfau said. “They’re going to have to provide some answers. We do know from our experience that, unfortunately, Dunlap is not the only Scout volunteer to be reinstated. There are obviously very significant problems with how the Boy Scouts managed to keep pedophiles under their ranks.”
SURVIVOR COMES FORWARD
Green isn’t alone in taking legal action under the new law.
For decades, Richard Clayton was haunted by the trauma of abuse he suffered as a 13-year-old when his military family was based at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield in the early 1980s.
The then-seventh-grader joined the local Boy Scouts troop to make new friends. But it was there that Clayton, along with 12 other boys, was molested by an assistant Scout leader who worked as an Air Force sergeant at the base, Curtis Knarich.
After an Air Force Office of Special Investigation inquiry, Knarich – who admitted to the crimes in 1984 – was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in a military jail, according to local news reports at the time.
Once Knarich was indicted, the committee chairman of the local Boy Scouts troop sent a letter to the national office asking Knarich be barred from having any involvement with the Boy Scouts of America.
But Clayton only ever heard through word of mouth of Knarich’s fate. The Boy Scouts of America never contacted Clayton about the abuse, he said.
“There was never any, ‘Hey, we are so sorry this happened to you, maybe you should go to counseling,’“ Clayton said. “It kind of just got swept under the rug.”
Under the new California law, Clayton is suing. He alleges the national and local office of the Boy Scouts of America “concealed the sexual abuse of children by Knarich in order to conceal their own bad acts in failing to protect children from him, to protect their reputation, and to prevent victims of such sexual abuse by him and other Scout leaders and volunteers from coming forward during the extremely limited statute of limitations.”
“These secrets keep people sick, these secrets have a damaging effect,” Clayton said. “I had pushed that so far down in the recesses of my mind that it didn’t happen, it didn’t exist.”
For years, Clayton said he did everything he could to avoid having to think of the abuse. “I still had a lot of shame and guilt, and I felt different than everyone else.” By 16, he was addicted to meth, and by 19, he was homeless, struggling to get clean.
“I burned my life to the ground,” he said. “I just wanted to not think about it. The only way to make it go away was more alcohol and more drugs.”
Clayton eventually got a one-way ticket to Hawaii, became a fireman and cleaned up his life. He was sober for about 14 years. Then the “perversion files” were released in 2012.
One of the boys Clayton knew at Travis Air Force Base started publicly speaking out about the abuse he too experienced at the hands of Knarich. He encouraged Clayton to also speak out, but for Clayton, the files left him spiraling all over again.
He learned that Knarich was still alive, had moved to Florida and reoffended. Clayton started using alcohol and drugs again. It was only after his 9-year-old son found him when he had tried to die by suicide in his master bedroom that Clayton finally got counseling in 2018 to process his past childhood trauma.
Clayton said the new law is vital for survivors like himself to move forward with their lives, continue the healing process and find justice.
“I didn’t know until recently that it was the linchpin for the rest of the crap in my life,” Clayton said. “It isn’t until men and women get up in age that they are able to realize the impact it had on their lives.”
MORE LAWSUITS TO COME
In conjunction with a second law firm, Pfau and his colleagues represent around 120 abuse survivors combined who were involved in the Boy Scouts, the Catholic church and other youth activities. He expects the firms to file about 50 cases in waves under the Child Victims Act.
“The institutions responsible for protecting children form these sick people continue on, unscathed, protecting their brand. And more children are abused,” he said.
Green’s experience with Scouts is an “egregious case of negligence,” Pfau said.
Pfau said it’s common for abuse survivors, particularly boys, not to tell anyone about what happened to that. That, in part, served as an impetus for AB 218.
Said Pfau: “Gov. Newsom obviously accepted that reality and legislated a law that is really powerful for abuse survivors like David.”