Friday, September 9, 2011

LDS Church And Boy Scouts Being Sued By Two Sets Of Brothers Claiming Former Scoutmaster Gary Reese Molested Them During Their Youth

A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the subject of two different sexual abuse lawsuits filed by two sets of brothers against both the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts of America, in which they claim they were molested by scout leaders during their youth in the 1970s.

Gary Reese, who served as a troop leader, a merit-badge counselor and local Boy Scout committee member in a troop sponsored by the Lakewood Ward in the Tacoma Stake during the 1970s, is not named as a defendant, but is identified in the lawsuit as the perpetrator of the abuse in both cases. In the latest case filed on September 7th, 2011, the brothers, identified only as T.S. and W.S., claim that Reese fondled their genitals during Scout-related functions in the 1970s and performed other lewd and lascivious acts. The alleged acts occurred at Reese’s home, where they attended some Scout meetings, and during troop outings. But the men contend they repressed memories of the alleged abuse until recently, which automatically makes their claims spurious. Reese was never arrested or charged with any crime.

Gary Reese referred questions to his attorney, G. Perrin Walker, who said his client categorically denies the accusations that are made against him. “Mr. Reese has a distinguished service history in community service, in history, in library service,” Walker said. “He’s assisted numerous young men to become Eagle Scouts. He expects to be fully vindicated.” Both the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts also deny any wrongdoing. A spokesman for the Boy Scouts issued a statement saying the organization is aware of no complaints being made about Reese during his time as a troop leader, which apparently ended in the 1970s.

However, there is another suit pending. Two others, identified as R.D. and C.D., filed a federal lawsuit against the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts early in 2010. The men allege that Reese sexually abused them, including fondling and raping them, back during the 1970s, although Reese is not named as a defendant in this case, either. One of the men contends he told the local LDS bishop about the abuse. Like in the new case, both R.D. and C.D. also repressed memory of the sexual molestations and did not realize the connection between their serious mental-health issues and the above-described child sexual assaults until November 2009, when their mother died (and probably left them with NO inheritance). They are represented by Kevin P. Sullivan and Thomas N. Petersen, and their trial is scheduled to begin on January 31st, 2012.

Gary Reese, the LDS Church, and the Boy Scouts deny these allegations as well and plan a vigorous defense. Lawyers for the Church conceded their client did nothing to remove Reese or punish him but only because church officials had no knowledge, notice or any indication that Reese had, was or would engage in any improper conduct whatsoever with children or youth. One of the attorneys representing the church, Chuck Gordon, said the church has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and is extremely proactive in its efforts to protect children and heal victims from this societal plague. Read the 21-page complaint HERE.

Gary Reese was also the subject of a brief profile in the August 1986 Ensign Magazine, which chronicles his extensive involvement in Scouting. Reese developed a historic trails award which was adopted by the Mount Rainier Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He also helped design the five-part patch the Scouts earn; when a boy completes requirements for one part of the award, he applies for the basic patch and the “point of the compass” representing that facet of history. Reese also went over those historic routes dozens of times, introducing small groups of boys to their local heritage and to the skills of Scouting.

But Reese is best known in the local area for being one of the preeminent scholars of Pierce County and Northwest history and has written or edited numerous papers on the subjects. He earned the moniker “Mr. Tacoma History” during his 23-year stint managing the Northwest Room and Special Collections at the Tacoma Public Library.

Of course, all of these glowing tributes to Gary Reese are no guarantee that he didn't abuse the victims. But it does seem odd that none of the four victims sought to report the abuse to anyone after it occurred (with one exception), and that they managed to "repress" the memories of the abuse for 40 years or more. A similar case is that of Martha Beck, author of the screed "Leaving the Saints", in which she accused her distinguished father, Hugh Nibley, of molesting her when she was a little girl. The book is one of the most depressing, disjointed, and disorganized books I've ever read. Her allegations have been vigorously denied by all other members of the immediate family. Both Beck and her husband left the Church, and then, after a lifelong marriage, both suddenly decided they were "gay" and divorced.


Anonymous said...

I am one of the MANY members that was helped by Gary to get my Eagle Scout and serve a Full Time Mission. I was a youth in the 80's and there was never a glimmer or thought of these accusations. Gary is one of the best, honest & charitable men I have ever had the privilege to know. This is a travesty.

Anonymous said...

Gary is a good man, he did not do these things, the men accusing him have all got very checkered pasts and the truth will come out, they are taking advantage of the BSA to try and get some money for their loser lives.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have another perspective. While Gary did extraordinary things with many kids, myself included, the accusations don't surprise me. I'll clarify my comments by saying upfront that I'm NOT a part of these lawsuits, but Gary isn't the Saint that many think he is. Did he molest me? That depends on your definition of the word. Some would say that he did. Did he physically touch me in inappropriate ways? Yes. He did. Did I repress any of these memories? No. The experience is as vivid in my mind today as it was 40 years ago. Did Gary ruin me and cause life-time mental issues? I don't think so. Did I tell anyone? No. At the time, I was too ashamed and confused about what to do. Now, it's moot. Am I extremely careful about how I interact with young kids? Absolutely. I consider what happened a learning experience. Not a happy one, but I learned from it none the less. Does Gary need serious help? Yes he does. Anyone who doesn't have friends his own age, doesn't date, who chooses to hang out with a bunch of obnoxious Jr. High kids, has issues and seriously worries me. Did he do what he's accused of? I wasn't there, but if he did then he should be locked up. If the Church and the BSA knew about this and hushed it up, then they deserved to be sued.

Thomas Miller said...

Gary Reese is a man of God. I was very involved in scouts as well as the youth sports program of my LDS Ward. Myself and many other young men spent many hours at his home. And even slept over on occasion. We would go to Gary's house when things were not going our way at home or we were just plane bored. For over four years I spent a lot of time with Gary. Not one time did he do anything inappropriate. He was always king and helpful. It's just shameful that people would accuse him of something so terrible. My name is Tom Miller, the church was our life during the week and on the weekends. I know every boy that was in contact with Gary. Its just observed to make allocation such those stated.

strykkre2 said...

My name is Timothy Miller. I spent a great deal of time with Gary during the 70's, and never saw any indications of inappropriate behavior by him. I never heard rumors of such from anyone I knew to be involved. I also never observed any changes in behavior by any of the boys who would spend time with him during those days. Most of us were a pretty closely knit group, so I'm sure I would have heard something or seen behavioral changes in any of the boys had Gay been inappropriate with them. I find these accusations insulting and shameful. Can anyone say... Gold Digger? Mudslinger?

Gary, was a friend, confidant, mentor and surrogate father who made a big difference in my life and I'm sure the lives of many others.

As an adult, I've had occasional associations with him. Throughout my life I have known him to be a righteous and honorable man. To this day, it has been my pleasure to have been blessed by his influence!

Anonymous said...

I see that this thread is waking up with news of Gary's passing. My experience is best aligned with what Anonymous from Jan 2012 said. Gary did a lot of positive mentoring with many boys, but I find the allegations entirely believable because I too was subjected to behavior that many would consider abuse that involved a nude photo shoot in his back yard when I was in my mid teens. I felt confused and ashamed and betrayed, so I did not mention it to anyone for decades. I was asked by both LDS and plaintiffs' attorneys for depositions but really didn't feel that anything in my story would contribute to the legal process so I declined.