A South Jersey man who alleges that he was molested by a former Boy Scout leader has filed a lawsuit seeking to force the organization to release its “perversion file” of volunteers banned because of suspected sexual abuse of young boys.
During an emotional news conference Tuesday at a law office in Newark, N.J., with a team of lawyers, Richard Halvorson, 47, a former Atlantic City police officer, said he was 11 when he was sexually abused in 1982 by his troop leader, Angelo Dellomo. Halvorson said he was forced to perform sexually explicit acts to earn a physical fitness badge.
Halvorson said he never talked about the abuse until 2013, when he told his mother. Halvorson said he consulted a lawyer and authorities the following year but was told charges could not be filed because the statute of limitations had expired.
“I stayed silent about it for a long time,” Halvorson said. “No more, no more. Everybody is going to hear it.”
The Inquirer is releasing Dellomo’s name because he was named in the lawsuit and Boy Scout records confirm the allegations. Paul Ernst, director of registration services for the Scouts, said in papers included Dellomo was confronted about the allegations in the late ‘80s and “never challenged our suspicion.”
A lawsuit filed Monday in Superior Court in Atlantic County seeks to force the Boy Scouts of America to release every name on its “perversion files,” said lawyer Jeff Anderson. It accuses the organization and the local scout chapter of conspiracy and nuisance.
“Nuisance sounds like it is minor,” Anderson said. “But it really is a major cover-up of the perversion files, the Ineligible Volunteer files that the Boy Scouts of America have kept and a concealment of the practices that they have employed in the past.”
The 22-page lawsuit doesn’t seek any damages, but rather a court order to require the Boy Scouts “to come clean about that past and release all the perversion files and the identities of the offenders in New Jersey and across the country,” Anderson said.
In a statement Tuesday, the Boy Scouts of America apologized to Halvorson and said it was notified about an abuse allegation against Dellomo in late 1986 and suspended him indefinitely. The allegation was reported to authorities and Dellomo was never reinstated in scouting, the organization said.
“We care deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting, and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children,” the statement said.
Anderson also disclosed Tuesday that Dellomo may have worked for another youth group, the Boy Pioneers of America in Atlantic City. Dellomo also was a teacher in Egg Harbor Township and retired in 2009 with a pension of $76,880, records show. There was no response to a message left at the district office.
Dellomo could not be reached for comment. According to Boy Scout records released by Anderson, Dellomo is 58 and lived in Mays Landing when he was a troop leader.
Dellomo was among 52 former New Jersey scout leaders who allegedly sexually abused young boys and were included in the organization’s nationwide list of thousands of those identified in the “Ineligible Volunteer Files,” Anderson said. The files include the names of 7,819 people who the Boy Scouts believe “were involved in sexually abusing a child,” he said.
Anderson last week disclosed the names of the former New Jersey leaders and 130 from New York. Because of the lack of details surrounding the cases, The Inquirer is not disclosing the other names. It was unclear whether authorities had investigated or prosecuted any or all of those identified.
The Irving, Texas-based Boy Scouts has acknowledged keeping a list of thousands of leaders who were suspected of preying on young boys and were kicked out of scouting for nearly a century, but has said it would not release their names.
Scout officials say they have developed a safety and protection system that includes the “Ineligible Volunteers Files” list, which has kept leaders removed because of suspected child abuse from returning to scouting.
Anderson contends that the scouts have not disclosed the scope of the allegations beyond those on the list and that there are more cases than have been made public. His law firm used publicly available documents, such as lawsuits and legal settlements, to compile the list he released.
It is believed that there are more than 12,000 victims nationwide, according to a child sex abuse expert hired by the Boy Scouts to review its files from 1944 to 2016. It is not known how many victims are from New Jersey.
According to Anderson, scout officials placed Dellomo in the file in 1987 but failed to report to authorities similar allegations by two other parents who said their sons were sexually abused. There was also a reference to a third incident in the files, he said. Dellomo was a leader in Troop 6 in Atlantic City.
“How many Richards are there out there? If there are 52 credibly accused individuals throughout the state who have abused within the Boy Scouts, then there are hundreds, if not thousands, of young boys who were sexually abused within this great state,” said Greg Gianforcaro, another lawyer involved in the case.
Halvorson read the file Tuesday on his former scout leader, whom he called “Mr. D.” According to a 1987 Boy Scouts record released by Anderson, Dellomo was suspended or denied registration as a scout leader for “scouts performing unusual (nude) physical fitness exercises for skill award."
“It got me mad,” he said.
In a 1986 letter in Dellomo’s file, several parents expressed concern that he required boys completing the Tenderfoot rank to go into a mirrored bathroom one at a time, undress, put on blindfolds, spread their legs and twist from side to side. Later, once clothed, two of the boys held down a third child while Dellomo gave a “beard rub” on the stomach and feet, the letter said.
Halvorson could have filed his lawsuit as a John Doe, often used in sexual abuse cases, but he said he wanted to encourage other victims and anyone who has information about other incidents to come forward. He said he also came forward because he is expecting a son in six weeks and wants to make sure nothing similar happens to him when he gets older.
“The secret’s out. Everybody needs to know,” Halvorson said. “This is going to help past victims to come forward. You can do it. You’re strong enough.”
Halvorson, a former police sergeant who joined the force in 1994, is the stepson of former Atlantic City Mayor and state Sen. James Whelan, who died in 2017. In 2013, Halvorson pleaded guilty to using cocaine on duty and left the force. He was sentenced to probation and barred from future public employment.
Anderson also identified more than a dozen former South Jersey Scout troop leaders from Atlantic City, Berlin, Cherry Hill, Collingswood, Egg Harbor, Hammonton, McGuire Air Force Base, Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Rancocas Woods, Runnemede, West Berlin, and Woodlynne who were named on the perversion list.
It was unclear whether authorities in those areas had investigated any of the alleged perpetrators.