William Tobiassen — Boy Scouts Perversion Files

BSA logoIn 1983, William Tobiassen, a life insurance agent in Corvallis, Oregon, was honored with the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts, the highest award given to an adult volunteer at the Council level. The award was in honor of his 21 years of work with the Boy Scouts, including ten years with Troop 186 in Corvallis, sponsored by the First United Methodist Church. Less than a year later, while Tobiassen was still serving as the Troop’s Scoutmaster, allegations of Tobiassen sexually abusing Scouts finally became public. Local law enforcement investigated the allegations of a former scout in Tobiassen’s Troop. Tobiassen Tobiassen was arrested and charged with second degree sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Like many pedophiles, Tobbiassen was charming and popular. He was married, had kids, and served on community boards as well as volunteering for the Boy Scouts. At the time of his arrest, the Gazette-Times reported that Peter F. Sandrock, Jr., Benton County District Attorney, disqualified himself from the case since Tobiassen had been involved in his re-election campaign. Instead, Marion County District Attorney Michael J. Brown prosecuted Tobiassen and asked the court to place him on five years’ probation and remand him to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation and treatment as a dangerous sex offender.

Initially, Tobiassen denied the charges and entered a plea of not guilty. However, as the case progressed, Tobiassen changed his plea to guilty on the condition that the district attorney refrain from charging him with any other crimes of sexual abuse. The Sheriff involved later said that Tobiassen had named six or seven other boys he had molested.

The national office of the Boy Scouts of America opened an “Ineligible Volunteer” file on Tobiassen after he was arrested in 1984. An early memo in the file is printed on the BSA’s now notorious “News Alert” form featuring a little cartoon fireman putting out a fire – a form the BSA used to alert national office of the potential for unflattering news about the Boy Scouts and to remind Scout employees involved to follow “usual procedures regarding release of information, single spokesman, etc.” Nothing in the file indicates the the BSA had any communication with the victim in Tobiassen’s criminal case, the other Scouts Tobiassen confessed to molesting, or the other Scouts who had been in Tobiassen’s Troops throughout the years.

After the criminal case was resolved, the survivor brought a civil case against the Boy Scouts of America. In April 1987, a Corvallis jury awarded the survivor $540,000 in compensatory damages and $2,000,000 in punitive damages. In July 1989, an appellate court vacated the punitive damages award based on the facts of the case. In a memo from the National Office of the Boy Scouts of America, Ben Love writes to scout executives and expresses his “pleasure” that the Boy Scouts would not be held accountable.

Once again, the Boy Scouts’ internal communications demonstrate a callous disregard for the welfare of the young boys sexually abused by a Scoutmaster. Nothing in the BSA’s file on Tobiassen expesses any concern or regard for the welfare of the victims. The file shows that the BSA was more concerned with putting out the fire of bad publicity than the welfare of the children they promised to guide and protect.


Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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