Local/State

Del. man sues Boy Scouts, Mormons over sex abuse

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Delaware store manager is suing the Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon church over childhood sexual abuse committed by the scoutmaster at his church-run troop.

Melvin Novak sued Wednesday in state court in Philadelphia, charging in part that newly released Boy Scout "perversion files" show the organization hid abuse claims for years.

"They knew about this conduct, they knew what was going on, and they covered it up in the most despicable way," lawyer Stewart J. Eisenberg said at a news conference attended by Novak and his father.

The lawsuit names the larger Mormon church and the Downingtown-area temple Novak attended. Messages seeking comment were left with the Scouts and the church at their national offices.

Novak's abuser, Vance Hein, is in prison for a parole violation related to his 1999 misdemeanor conviction in Novak's case. He originally got probation but is now serving 15 to 30 years for possessing child pornography while on probation, Eisenberg said.

Novak, 28, said the abuse made him "a quitter" when it came to school and jobs, and plunged him into years of substance abuse.

"After all that, my childhood just fell apart," Novak said. "It took away a lot of accomplishments and experiences I can't get back."

The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sex crimes, but Novak has said he wants his name released to publicize the crime and try to prevent other children from being abused.

The Boy Scout files - more than 14,000 pages of secret files, compiled from 1959 to 1985 - show that police, prosecutors, pastors and Boy Scout leaders quietly shielded scoutmasters and others who allegedly molested children. In response, the Scouts have apologized and said their response to the allegations were "plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong."

Novak has also quit the Mormon church.

His suit faults the church for not doing background checks on Hein, who had gone East after serving as a scout leader in California, Eisenberg said. The lawyer wants to investigate the reason for that move, given the alleged practice of quietly removing scoutmasters amid sex-abuse complaints.

Novak said he was abused at home, on camping trips and on a trip to Canada, a trip that motivated him to go to authorities. He was 15 and had been abused for nearly a year.

Hein, he said, had groomed him over the years with gifts and rewards.

"From the time I was 8 years old, this guy was like Santa Claus," he said.

Novak's father remains active at the temple where Vance led the Boy Scout troop for years.

"Evil people can fool us all," the elder Novak said.

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