Stewart Eisenberg filed a complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas asserts that inadequate background checks and improper supervision of a Chester County Scoutmaster by the Boy Scouts and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led to the molestation of a 15-year-old boy scout in 1998 and 1999. Vance Hein was a Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 84 in West Chester, Pa., and also served as a youth leader in the LDS congregation.
Hein is also named in the lawsuit for sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing Melvin Novak, who is now an adult residing in Delaware. Mr. Novak was molested at Boy Scout meetings and camp, in fields and parks, at Hein’s apartment and during a “special” trip to Canada.
The complaint further asserts that pedophiles had infiltrated scouting for decades, and the Boy Scouts of America deliberately concealed and withheld information from young boys and their parents. This is one of the first lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania related to sexual abuse by a Scoutmaster since the release of the “perversion files” which revealed that more than 1,200 alleged sexual abusers were expelled from the Boy Scouts between 1965 and 1985.
“The Boy Scouts and LDS church placed their own interests ahead of the protection of children, covering up incidents of sexual abuse by Scoutmasters who they selected to train young boys, including Mr. Novak, in morality, patriotism and life skills,” said Mr. Novak’s attorney Stewart J. Eisenberg of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, PC.
According to the complaint, Hein engaged in improper ‘grooming’ behaviors to sexually desensitize scouts, including Mr. Novak. He also lied to Mr. Novak’s parents, asking permission to take their son to Montreal, Canada to learn computer software and programming skills. After returning from the trip, Mr. Novak reported Hein’s sexual assault to his parents, who notified the police. Hein eventually pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Mr. Novak and was sentenced to 15 years of probation. Hein then violated his probation by possessing child pornography and received a 15-to 30-year prison sentence in August 2012. He is currently incarcerated at SCI-Graterford.
“Hein’s appalling actions have caused profound emotional and psychological harm to Mr. Novak and destroyed his ability to have a normal and happy life,” added Eisenberg.
“The Boy Scouts’ betrayal of Melvin’s trust and faith was shameful and unforgivable, and can never be restored,” added Dino Privitera, an attorney also handling the case.
The Boy Scouts of America is the largest U.S. youth organization, consisting of about 5 million members. An estimated 20 percent of American boys have participated in Boy Scout troops or functions. As one of the largest chartering organizations for Boy Scout troops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints authorizes the selection of Boy Scout leaders to educate and minister to families.
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