A former Boy Scout leader described in court as a decades-long child predator was sentenced Friday to five years in prison after pleading guilty to sex abuse charges involving a girl.
The criminal investigation revealed eight other victims of Henry Stephen “Steve” Bauer of Portland when he was a scoutmaster in the 1980s and 1990s, prosecutors alleged.
On Wednesday morning, the day he was set to go to trial, Bauer pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted first-degree sexual abuse of a girl in 2009 in Washington County and Rockaway Beach.
At sentencing, Judge Eric E. Butterfield ordered Bauer to register as a sex offender, participate in child sex offender treatment and have no contact with multiple victims.
Bauer, 65, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit with his wrists handcuffed and linked to a chain around his waist, made no statements in Washington County Circuit Court.
The case began in 2021 after a woman reported to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office that Bauer had abused her when she was a child.
She spoke briefly in court, telling Bauer that the abuse she withstood left her “damaged and broken.” She said he abused her in front of a younger girl and one time had drugged her.
After Bauer’s arrest was publicized in 2021, a former legal advisor for the Boy Scouts of America contacted the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and shared internal Boy Scouts documents that revealed that more than a decade before the girl’s abuse, Bauer had been kicked out of two different Boy Scout troops and placed on the “ineligibility” list for future volunteering in 1993 for inappropriate contact with two scouts, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Marie E. Atwood and court records.
Bauer had exhibited “prolific grooming behavior,” exposing himself to scouts, inappropriately touching them and making sexualized comments, Atwood said.
Boy Scouts of America never reported Bauer’s conduct to police, even after kicking him out of the organization, she told the court. But the organization did turn over to Washington County investigators hundreds of pages of documents detailing the disciplinary proceedings Bauer faced.
The detectives used those records to identify eight additional victims, Atwood said. The statute of limitations has expired for charges in many of those cases, she said.
One former scout told the detectives that Bauer had repeatedly touched him when he was in seventh grade while he was in a sleeping bag, Atwood said.
Another said he was 10 when Bauer molested him and touched his genitals during an “unsolicited massage,” according to court papers. Another scout said Bauer had taken only him on a trip where Bauer molested him, according to the documents.
The Boy Scout records showed that when Bauer was dismissed from the organization, he told Paul Lorenzini, of the Boy Scouts of America’s Cascade Pacific Council: “I would like to continue to be involved in Scouting, but with restrictions that prevent me from doing things like this. I know you have other options, probation perhaps. It’s something I have had difficulty with, not just in Scouting.”
Investigators also learned that Bauer had been terminated from multiple volunteer jobs as a result of his inappropriate conduct around children, Atwood said.
According to Washington County investigators, Bauer had also volunteered with Alpenrose Dairyvill, Neah-Kah-Nie High School, Portland Revels, the Rockaway Beach Police Department and the Tillamook Association for the Performing Arts.
Investigators said they found allegations of Bauer’s misconduct dating back to the 1970s, although Bauer had never been convicted of a sexual offense in Oregon, according to the state’s online court case database.
While Atwood described the negotiated sentence as a “good result,” she said it still doesn’t “suffice in any way” for Bauer’s alleged repetitive child abuse.
“It’s not particularly satisfying to the state or to the victims,” she said.
Defense lawyer Steven J. Sherlag called the sentence an “appropriate” resolution of a “difficult situation for everybody.”
One of the documents that the Boy Scouts of America shared with investigators was an unsolicited short story titled “A Touching Problem,” that Bauer had submitted to Scouting Magazine, which described child sex abuse allegations “eerily similar” to those he had been accused of within the organization, according to court documents.
It’s about a scout who confides to his mother about a troop leader who touched him inappropriately at summer camp but then ends with the scout claiming to his mother that he loves the leader, according to court documents. The story closes with the troop leader kissing the scout while they cuddle by a campfire, according to court papers.
Bauer had repeatedly written his name in place of the troop leader’s name in the story “in what appear to be Freudian slips of sorts,” Atwood wrote in a memo to the court.
Along with the story he submitted, Bauer wrote a letter to the magazine detailing his frustration with the Boy Scouts of America’s rules against physical contact with children.
The story was never published but was cited as particularly concerning in the Boy Scouts internal investigation and decision to bar Bauer from any work or volunteering for the organization, according to Atwood.
If the case had gone to trial, Atwood said she intended to offer the Boy Scout evidence and testimony from other alleged victims.
— Maxine Bernstein
Email firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-221-8212
Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian
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