HALL COUNTY, Ga. - Court documents reveal evidence that church and Boy Scout leaders knew about a sexual abuser and not only allowed him to continue working, but also promoted him.
Fleming Weaver would go on to meet victims who eventually came forward with rape accusations last year.
This is a case that spans several decades in Hall County. It’s a case that accuses the Boy Scouts, a Gainesville church and its leaders of lying to keep a horrific secret.
Documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News include a file that Boy Scouts handed over just last week after a two-year court fight.
"We know now why they didn't want it (the file) turned over," attorney Esther Panitch said.
The file details a three-decade journey with Troop 26, admitted sexual abuse and an admission that leaders knew about molestation, kept silent and even promoted the abuser.
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"It appears from that file that they all conspired to keep quiet to protect a pedophile and his family and their own reputations and their bottom line," Panitch said.
While the criminal details came to light in the 90s, after Georgia's statute of limitations expired, a 2016 civil suit against the Boy Scouts Georgia Northeast Council, First Church of Gainesville and leaders still has a day in court.
A 1995 transcript shows Weaver, now 83, admitted to police that he raped at least five boys before 1981 and sought counseling.
Soon after, a neighboring district attorney, also a Boy Scout leader, revealed that confession to the district council, expressing "rage" that Weaver continued to be honored.
Weaver resigned for health reasons, and a media statement was crafted to deal with an anticipated firestorm.
The documents we dug through reveal police interviews where church leaders said they knew about the victims before Weaver's confession and admitted to keeping it from police.
Amid the allegations, Weaver was promoted to Scout leader, allowing him to meet victims who are part of the new lawsuit.
Panitch represents three of those victims.
"Until those people are held responsible or they're named in trial, people will continue to keep this quiet," she said.
The case serves as a disturbing reminder of what has haunted so many in a tight-knit community.
"I despise child abuse more than anything in the world," resident Alex Fowler said.
Weaver and his wife relocated to Florida last year. Channel 2 Action News reached out to the defendants and their attorneys about the new evidence and lawsuit, but so far has not gotten a response.
Scout Executive/CEO Trip Selman, issued the following statement on behalf of Boy Scouts of America, Northeast Georgia Council:
“The behavior included in these allegations is abhorrent and runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members. The BSA is outraged there have been times when Scouts were abused and we sincerely apologize to victims and their families.
"In 1995 we learned a local volunteer had been made aware of allegations of abuse in 1981. However, all information gathered to date indicates neither the local council nor the BSA were ever notified of these allegations. Upon learning of reports of abuse in 1995, we took immediate action to prohibit the abuser from any future participation in Scouting.
“In the many years since these alleged actions occurred, we have continued to strengthen our efforts to protect youth, including training volunteers and staff on how to identify and report incidents of abuse and requiring prompt mandatory reporting of any suspicion or allegation to authorities.
"We seek to prevent child abuse through comprehensive policies and procedures to serve as barriers to abuse. These include a thorough screening process for adult leaders and staff, criminal background checks, requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during Scouting activities, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse. In addition, the BSA has retroactively reported all circumstances that pre-dated this policy.
“The BSA offers assistance with counseling to any Scout, former Scout, or the family member of any Scout who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting. The BSA has a toll-free help line (855-295-1531) and email contact address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for these sensitive matters.”
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