Nessel, state police to investigate Boy Scouts of America abuse reports

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan State Police will launch a joint investigation into Boy Scouts of America after federal civil litigation alleged sexual abuse within the organization. 

The public should report instances of abuse related to Boy Scouts of America to aid the statewide investigation, Nessel said in a Tuesday statement.

The more than 110-year-old organization filed for bankruptcy last year to create a compensation fund for potentially thousands of men molested as youths by scoutmasters and other leaders. 

At the time, the organization estimated between 1,000 and 5,000 victims would ultimately seek compensation, but Boy Scouts of America estimated in court records that more than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920s. 

Nessel's investigation into Boy Scouts of America comes as her investigation into clergy sexual abuse continues. As of October, 11 men had been charged in the investigation that began in 2018 under Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette. 

“My department has proven our commitment to accountability through similar sex abuse investigations and I believe — with the public’s help — we can secure justice for survivors who endured abuse through Boy Scouts of America,” Nessel said. 

Boy Scouts of America said it shared Nessel's commitment to support victims and would "cooperate fully" with her investigation.

Michigan-specific claims that have been made in the civil case against the Boy Scouts of America have been reported to local law enforcement, the group said. 

"We believe it is imperative that all convicted abusers serve their full criminal sentences and comply with any post-release requirements to protect children and reduce recidivism," Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. "We also support efforts to strengthen protections for survivors of sexual abuse, including by reforming civil and criminal statutes of limitations governing allegations of abuse."

Neither the Attorney General's department nor the Michigan State Police have received any complaints specific to the organization but have based the investigation on "allegations laid out in public documents," Nessel spokeswoman Lynsey Mukomel said.  

"We're hoping the public will help bring perspective to prevalence of sex abuse in Michigan, should allegations exist," Mukomel said. 

The investigation will rely on Michigan State Police, prosecutors, special agents and victims advocates, Nessel's office said. Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women also will be used.

People with information on abuse that occurred within Boy Scouts of America should call the department's reporting hotline at (844) 324-3374 during business hours Monday through Friday. Tips can be anonymous.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com