A lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Boy Scouts of America charges that the organization failed to take action against a Washington state volunteer despite receiving multiple complaints about him.
Brian Malnes, 48, alleges he was abused by a scout leader in 1980. He chose to file suit 30 years later only after he saw his alleged abuser profiled on a news report in 2012.
The news story focused on the release of thousands of so-called “perversion files." A court ordered the Boy Scourts to make public the meticulous records it kept on scouting volunteers who were kicked out of the program for suspected child abuse. The files had been kept for decades at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas. The Scouts say it was a way for them to kick suspected pedophiles out of the program and to make sure they stayed out.
"When I first saw it I really couldn't believe it," said Malnes, who lived in Lynnwood as a child but now resides in Flagstaff, Arizona. "I was blown away. I looked at the article and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that I was looking at Charlie Grewe's name on the paper."
Grewe is one of dozens of former volunteers from Washington state who wound up in the Boy Scouts' files. Grewe was kicked out of scouting permanently after he was arrested and convicted of sex crimes against children in 1988 in a Snohomish County Superior Court.
The abuse suffered by Malnes allegedly occurred eight years earlier at the Fire Mountain Boy Scout Camp in Mt. Vernon. Malnes was 14-years-old at the time and was assigned to share a tent with Grewe for the entire summer. Grewe was the camp’s aquatics director and a decorated Eagle Scout.
"Charlie was doing really horrible things to me. Over the course of the summer Charlie began touching me, saying inappropriate things," said Malnes. "I was afraid. I think every time I think of that period of time I can just think of myself being afraid."
Halfway through the summer Malnes said he summoned the courage to tell the camp director about the abuse. But that didn’t help.
"Basically, I was told it was my fault and Charlie's reputation was much more important than my concerns and nobody would believe a 14-year-old over Charlie who was a really well established member of the scouting community," said Malnes.
Court records show Malnes wasn’t the only young victim of Grewe’s that scouting officials had been warned about.
Here is a list of known complaints about Grewe prior to his being forced out of scouting:
* 1979: A Boy Scout reports to two Scout camp leaders that Grewe abused him at the swim beach.
* 1980: Brian Malnes tells the camp director he’s being repeatedly abused in the tent he shares with Grewe.
* 1981: Two Boy Scouts in Lake Stevens say Grewe, their Scout leader, touched them in their genital area and spoke to them about sexual acts.
* 1987: A 15-year-old Scout with a learning disability reports Grewe inappropriately touched him during a swimming lesson at camp.
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of Malnes, his attorneys say the Boy Scouts need to be held accountable for protecting a well-known leader at the expense of vulnerable children.
“The defendants (Boy Scouts of America) engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct by providing Grewe with direct and private access to young boy scouts after they received multiple, credible reports that he was sexually abusing boys, including Plaintiff (Malnes). The defendants did so in order to conceal their own bad acts, to protect their reputation, and to prevent victims from coming forward, despite knowing that Grewe would continue to molest scouts, including Plaintiff,” the attorneys wrote in the suit.
“Any instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable. While we can’t comment on 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,” said Deron Smith of Boy Scouts of America.
Brian Malnes is an Eagle Scout who lived the Scout oath, law, and motto growing up.
“I loved scouting. I don't remember not being a scout," said Malnes.
But as an adult his life unraveled with drugs, crime, and even prison time for theft and robbery.
"I developed a lot of self-loathing about myself and some of the relationships I've been in have been horrible as a result."
Then last year, when the Boy Scouts' files went public, Malnes decided to end his silence. Learning the truth about Grewe confirmed for him what he’d been struggling with for decades.
"It wasn't until the last year that I knew, I really knew it wasn't just a dream. That these things happened to me and it wasn't my fault," said Malnes.
Despite it all, Malnes said he's speaking up for the organization he still believes in.
"I believe enough in the Boy Scouts to risk my anonymity by coming forward. My stature in the community, my stature in the scouts. I risked all of that to come forward because I believe in scouting."
Approximately six adult men have contacted Malnes’ attorney, Jason Amala, since the files were released to say they too were Charlie Grewe’s victims.
“I think that one of the reasons that we’ve had so many people contact us is they want the public to know the full story which is that local scout leaders were warned a number of times while he (Grewe) was volunteering with scouts that he had abused. Yet nothing was done to remove him from the program,” said Amala.
Charles Grewe was released from prison in 1992 after serving three years for sex crimes against children who lived in his neighborhood and others whom he came into contact when when he was school bus driver in Everett in the 1980s.
As with the scouts, at least one school bus company manager was aware of Grewe’s sexual contact with minors, yet allowed him to keep his job. According to legal documents filed in 1989, a 15-year-old boy reported that Grewe touched and patted him often and asked him sexually related questions.
“The defendant’s employer had a talk with him and told him not to touch the children at all,” wrote Snohomish County prosecutors.
“It’s really troubling to see not only scout leaders failed to take action but you also have a school bus company that apparently knew that he molested at least one child and they didn’t remove him from the position and he continued molesting children,” said Amala.
The Boy Scouts say they’ve overhauled their training and policies to better protect youth.
“The BSA was one of the first youth programs to develop youth protection policies and education, and in the more than 30 years since these events took place has continuously enhanced its multi-tiered policies and procedures, which now include background checks, comprehensive training programs, and safety policies, like requiring all members to report even suspicions of abuse directly to local law enforcement,” said Smith.