Boy Scouts of America allowed a volunteer to work with kids in Montana in the 1980s, even after he had been accused of sexual abuse in another state and deemed ineligible for volunteering for the organization, according to attorneys planning a lawsuit.
Joel Gilpin served with Troop 394 in Billings from 1980 to 1983, when he was notified that his assistant scoutmaster registration would not be accepted, according to a press release from Seattle law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC and New Jersey firm Rebenack Aronow Mascolo LLP.
The two firms are preparing to sue the Boy Scouts in a New Jersey state court later this year.
Before moving to Montana, Gilpin served as a scoutmaster for Troop 148 in Ashland, Kentucky, according to the two law firms. In 1976, three boys there reported that Gilpin sexually abused them, attorneys say.
Gilpin was then asked in 1977 to step down from scouting but was allowed to participate in an unofficial role with another troop, the attorneys say.
In 1978, Boy Scouts of America placed Gilpin in its “ineligible volunteer” file, the lawyers say, although he remained active with scout troops.
In 1987, Gilpin was convicted in Billings of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 11 and 12, and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Attorneys preparing the suit say Gilpin is an example of a widespread cover-up of sexual abuse within the organization.
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“Those working at the Boy Scout headquarters in New Jersey knowingly allowed sex predators to volunteer — and as a result, those Scout leaders kept gaining access to children and abusing them,” said Michael T. Pfau, in the press release. Pfau represents dozens of men who will file the lawsuit in New Jersey later this year.
The pending lawsuit comes after at least 24 lawsuits filed against the Scouts in New York since Aug. 14, when a similar window on civil claims opened up in that state, the Associated Press has reported.
Attorneys with the two law firms preparing to sue estimate that more than a dozen Montana residents have indicated they intend to join the civil case, according to Julien Martinez, a spokesperson for the law firms.
The lawsuit can be filed no sooner than Dec. 1, due to a New Jersey law passed this year.
The law opens a two-year window for plaintiffs to sue for any abuse that occurred during the 30 years the organization was based in New Jersey, according to the press release.
Dirk Smith, CEO of the Montana Council for Boy Scouts, did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.
In 1976, Boy Scouts leader William Leininger Jr. was convicted of raping six female Explorer Scouts from a Kalispell group. He died in 2002.