Ex-Boy Scouts allege abuse

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, July 23, 2013

ROCHESTER — Two former Boy Scouts filed lawsuits Monday alleging they were sexually abused by a Minnesota troop leader nearly four decades ago.

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson filed the lawsuits Monday on behalf of two former Rochester residents, identified as Doe 8 and Doe 9. The former Scouts say they were abused in the 1970s by Richard Hokanson, a convicted molester who now lives in Faribault.

Hokanson spent 22 years as a Scout leader and held other positions in the Rochester area involving youth activities, Anderson said.

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Defendants include the Boy Scouts of America; Gamehaven Council; St. Pius X Catholic Church of Rochester, the troop’s sponsor; and Hokanson.

The lawsuit alleges multiple adults at the church, with the troop and the Boy Scouts received information in the early 1970s about Hokanson’s alleged sex abuse and “failed to act to protect children, enabling Hokanson to prey on youth and others,” the Star Tribune reported.

The suits are the first in Minnesota involving the Boy Scouts of America filed under a new state law eliminating the civil statute of limitations for children who are sexually abused and allowing a three-year window for victims of past childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

“What we’re here to do today is sound the alarm,” said Anderson, announcing the lawsuits outside the Olmsted County Courthouse in Rochester. “What these survivors (seek) is for other kids to be protected.”

Hokanson, 77, declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press Monday, saying he had just heard of the lawsuits and wanted to talk to an attorney first. The Boys Scouts issued a statement saying they can’t comment on the lawsuit, but said: “Any instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable.”

“The BSA was one of the first youth programs to develop youth protection policies and education, and in the 40 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,” the Boy Scouts said.

Gamehaven Council, which has about 160 Scouting units in southeastern Minnesota, issued the same statement as the Boy Scouts. No one at St. Pius was available to comment Monday.

Anderson identified Doe 8 as Michael Keller, 50, of Tennessee. In a statement released by Anderson, Keller said: “In the time since my abuse, I have struggled with the secrecy and denial fostered by adults associated with scouting. Throughout the approximately six years of sexual abuse and manipulation by Hokanson, I reached out to numerous adults to question what was happening and ultimately to seek their help. No help came.”

The lawsuit alleges that Hokanson sexually abused more than 21 young Scouts in the troop from at least 1969 to 1982.

In October, the Boy Scouts of America released about 1,200 files documenting reports of sexual abuse by scoutmasters and adult leaders over many decades.