A former chaplain for the Boy Scouts in Rhode Island was sentenced on Thursday to 40 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges that he sexually assaulted six young men, the authorities said — the latest reckoning for a national scouting movement beleaguered by sex-abuse claims.
The ex-chaplain, James Glawson, 76, of Exeter, R.I., volunteered for the Boy Scouts from 1980 to 2018 and served as an assistant Catholic chaplain at the scouting camp in Hopkinton, R.I., according to the Rhode Island State Police.
Investigators said that Mr. Glawson came to their attention in 2019 when staff members at a Rhode Island group home reported that he had had inappropriate contact with an 18-year-old developmentally disabled resident.
The victim told the police that he had been sexually assaulted several times over the years by Mr. Glawson, who the authorities said later admitted abusing the resident and several other young men during the 1980s while he was a scout leader. It was not immediately clear if the group home resident had ties to the Boy Scouts.
Peter F. Neronha, the attorney general of Rhode Island, said in a statement on Thursday that Mr. Glawson was in a position of responsibility and that parents had entrusted the well-being of their children to him.
“When a person abuses that trust, and sexually assaults a child whose safety has been entrusted to them, we know the consequences — they are severe and long-lasting,” Mr. Neronha said.
During a Superior Court hearing in Wakefield, R.I., on Thursday, Mr. Glawson apologized for his “evil ways,” The Providence Journal reported.
“It makes me sick to think of what I have done,” Mr. Glawson said, according to the newspaper. “I pray each day for God’s help to help heal those that I hurt so badly and to give them comfort for the shame that I have caused.”
In addition to a 40-year prison term, Mr. Glawson was sentenced to 20 years of probation after pleading no contest to 11 counts of first-degree sexual assault.
Mr. Glawson was also previously affiliated with two Catholic parishes in Rhode Island, the authorities said.
At the time that Mr. Glawson was charged, the Rhode Island State Police said the Boy Scouts of America had been cooperating with the investigation. Last February, the organization, facing a deluge of sex-abuse claims that now surpass 82,000 cases, filed for bankruptcy protection.
In a statement on Thursday night, the Boy Scouts of America said it had permanently barred Mr. Glawson in 2019.
“This individual’s behavior is reprehensible and runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands,” the Boy Scouts said. “We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.”
The organization said it conducts criminal background checks on scouting leaders, along with using other screening measures. One-on-one situations of adults interacting with children have been prohibited, it said.
“We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children,” the Boy Scouts said. “We believe victims, we support them, and we encourage them to come forward.”
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