Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Bill Bricker Backstory Part II

NOTE: Part II has been updated, but needs more editing and it's missing some links. So bear with me. Also, keep in mind, this is not a news account, but a personal commentary and all that implies.

So what do you do when a friend says he's been molested by everyone's favorite scoutmaster? If you're me, you want to tell the authorities. But which ones? The cops? The Boy Scouts? The Board of Education? A reporter? I tried all of them. For the last twenty years, nobody who could do anything -- who should have done something -- gave a shit. Nobody.

Twenty years ago [in the 1990's], my friend, the man I call Ground Zero -- because he was the first to tell me about the abuse he experienced as a Boy Scout -- was very reluctant to come forward, unless we could find another scout who could corroborate the molestation by sharing his own experience. Without someone else, he couldn't bear the thought of standing alone to face the guaranteed backlash that occurs whenever you accuse someone that people admire of pedophilia. I find it interesting that most of the backlash since Bricker's arrest has been directed toward the reporters. As if they were making this stuff up.

 At the time, I knew in my gut that my friend's experience was the tip of a huge iceberg. So I went to the Winnetka police to report what he had told me even though he wasn't ready to come forward yet. They're TRAINED PROFESSIONALS -- allegedly -- maybe they had a way to get people to come forward. 

I was interviewed by a uniformed officer, not a detective. That should have been my first indication of their complete lack of interest. He sat and took notes on the back of a torn envelope -- not even an intake form -- another obvious clue that my story would be going into the circular file shortly after I left. He may have even yawned. Our conversation ended with him announcing that the statute of limitations had passed and I should not ever expect to hear from them one way or another. And I never did.

Note to Winnetka Cops -- you should have had protocols in place to handle any report of child abuse. But you didn't. Do you even know the responsibilities of a mandated reporter? We know from Bricker's Board of Education teacher file that Winnetka Police Chief Don Derning spoke to Bricker in 1968 about a claim of sexual abuse from a student at Hubbard Woods School. 1] The cops claim to have no records of any interaction with Bricker, ever. 2] Bricker continued teaching for seventeen more years. 

After Bricker's arrest last month in a skilled nursing facility in Traverse City, MI, and with the media watching, the Winnetka police made a great show of handling a new report this month from a woman in her sixties who alleges that Bricker fondled her during indoor recess in 1958. Surprisingly, the Tribune included the graphic description of her alleged abuse contained in the police report. The cops leaped into action and called in the State's Attorney's sex crimes people, pushed some paper around and finally announced that there was nothing to do because the statute of limitations had passed. Case closed. If only the police had done half as much twenty years ago, Bricker would have been arrested long before this. But, they did nothing. 
I hope that next time, when the spotlight of publicity isn't so bright, if a teacher is reported for pedophilia, the police start by investigating the teacher's school records. As we have discovered, Bricker's teacher file alone would have lent a boatload of credence to the abuse I was alleging. Enough to ignite an thorough investigation. Have I mentioned twenty years ago?

If the perpetrator is a scout leader, contact the BSA's national office in Dallas. Ask whether the person is listed in their "Ineligible Volunteers" files. There's even a special department for questions about those people. But don't expect them to fall all over themselves in an effort to cooperate. The "O" in Boy Scouts stands for OBFUSCATE. 

The BSA used to have over 20,000 secret files they kept on adults in scouting who had crossed the line -- from "shouting at kids" [I'm quoting the BSA office and laughing out loud] to pedophilia. These I.V. files were forced out into the open by two major lawsuits [link to come]. The files I read all contain references to pedophile behavior. And there's no mention of anyone shouting at children. 

Even more disconcerting, like the ongoing Catholic priest debacle, Boy Scout criminal behavior with minors was rarely reported to law enforcement, just monitored by the local or national BSA headquarters. Now referred to as "perversion files" [google it], these Boy Scout I.V. folders were purged from a high of 20,000 to a mere 6,000 in a move that screams cover your ass. So when the scouts claim that this year is the first time they've had any reports about Bricker, I find their claims to be abundantly disingenuous. 

Twenty years ago, I also called the local NE Council of the Boy Scouts to find out if Bricker was still attached to a troop. I was appalled to discover that he was. I don't remember whether he was still attached to Winnetka Troop 18 or Troop 20. It is worth noting that according to his BOE teacher file, Bricker supposedly relinquished his leadership and active involvement in Troop 18 in early July of 1968. This was shortly after his inappropriate behavior was reported to the owners of Teton Valley Ranch Camp [who backed him 100% and said he would always have a job with them] and the Winnetka Board of Education [who scheduled an appointment for him with a shrink]. His inappropriate behavior should have been reported to the National Boy Scouts. In fact, he should have been listed in the Ineligible Volunteer files and removed permanently from scouting. However, the Winnetka scouting community clearly chose to keep things to themselves. 

Nobody did anything to stop him. 

Interesting that Bricker, who was 48 in the summer of 1968 and described as a "confirmed bachelor," suddenly got engaged at the end of July, in the midst of these accusations and married three months later. In the end, he never stopped teaching until his retirement in 1985. He continued as a camp counselor at Teton Valley Ranch Camp until 2002. And despite the show of stepping down in 1968, he didn't leave scouting until 1988. On the other hand, his childless, and arguably, sham marriage was over in four short years. 

Tom Fritts, owner of a Winnetka sporting goods store and a Marine like Bricker, has run Winnetka's popular Troop 20 for decades. Has anyone ever asked Fritts whether he heard the rumors about Bricker and Troop 18 over the years? He had to have known what happened in 1968. Not that he'd ever tell you. 

I spent some up close and personal time dealing with Fritts when he was Executive Director of the Winnetka Community house and Camp Douglas Smith in the 1970's. To say he ran things like a someone who is used to giving orders and never giving in is not an exaggeration. I was in charge of the inaugural year of a huge fundraising event and he wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy to deal with. When the event was over I presented him with a t-shirt that said, "Beneath this cold exterior, there beats a heart of stone." And I meant every word. 

After the cops and the Boy Scouts, my next stop, again twenty years ago, was a phone call to the Winnetka Board of Education offices. I wanted to find out how to get a copy of Bricker's teaching file, which I expected to show that he had been fired for inappropriate behavior with a child. Nope. Not a chance, I was told. You can't have it. This month, with law enforcement breathing down their necks, the BOE just released everything in his file. As someone said when I called to get my copy sent to me, "It's the right thing to do." Haaaa. Especially when the world is watching. 

Twenty years ago, I couldn't even get Bricker's file using the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]. That sounded wrong to me, but I didn't have the internet as a resource back then, so, while I felt stonewalled, I didn't know what else to do to get a copy. So I did nothing. I didn't even get the name of the woman who answered the phone. Or record the date I called. Very naive. 

Only this month have we learned that Bricker was allowed to retire with his pension like any other teacher in 1985 at age 65, despite several reports of inappropriate behavior dating back to 1968. And who knows how much behavior went unreported in the first nineteen years of his career, which began in 1949. His scouting career started in 1938, by the way. 

This February, in 2014, fifteen or twenty years after my first visit to the cops regarding Bricker, I contacted the Winnetka police again. This time I wanted any and all information they had on Bricker. They told me about a file they had, and said it would be provided to me, with names, ages, and addresses redacted, via FOIA. So I did the paperwork and turned it in. While I was at the police station, I asked whether the Winnetka cops had a record of the time I came in to make a report about Bricker. Nope. When I told them I had been in there before to report Bricker, a detective said, "Well, that was then." I assume he meant before the current chief of police. But he didn't elaborate. 

NOTE: I was also curious about a plethora of North Shore suicides around 1980, since shame and suicide are inextricably linked. The records department told me they would keep an eye out for relevant old cases, while they were in the process of purging their files. That's right, they go in and throw away old cases, including information that might be useful later. I find this a bizarre and questionable process. I think files should be accessible going back 100 years, then archived, but still available. Learning about the police purge was also the first time I wondered whether there might be people who protected Bricker over the years by intervening to subvert the legal process.  

Naturally, I never heard anything back from the records department.

Now that Bricker has been arrested, the Winnetka police claim they searched, but found nothing in their past records about Bricker. Bull Hockey. We know he talked to Chief Derning in 1968. Or was that listed under professional courtesy? And, as I have pointed out, they should have had a police report on file from me. In fact, if the cops had done a better job twenty years ago, Illinois' statute of limitations wouldn't have expired for other younger scouts who have since reported being molested.   

 After reviewing my FOIA request, the Winnetka police sent me a three-page phone log that included one small paragraph about a phone call from the Boy Scouts that referenced alleged inappropriate contact of a minor by Bricker. But there was no file included. 

Fed up with getting the runaround, I went higher up on the food chain. I wrote to the State's Attorney's office. An ASA sent the Winnetka Police a two page letter [copying me] that basically said, put up or shut up. And I got the file. I also got lots of apologies from the Winnetka cops who claimed they didn't realize there was an actual file to give me, blah blah blah.

Oh, the shucking and jiving. From so many different people, all of whom are mandated to protect children. But continue to drop the ball.

NEXT INSTALLMENT -- Backstory III: The reporters who ignored the story, new stonewalling from the boy scouts, and the years that passed before I got an email from the Teton County [WY] Sheriff's office announcing their criminal investigation into Bricker. 


Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Bill Bricker Backstory Part I

[A reminder: Bill Bricker has been arrested on two counts of inappropriate contact with a minor. These accusations and many others are alleged to be true by his accusers. I am inclined to believe them. However, he is innocent of any and all charges until proven guilty in a court of law.]

How did I get into this Bill Bricker firestorm? While my family has lived in Winnetka, IL. since 1954, Bill Bricker was never my gym teacher, because I never went to Hubbard Woods School. He was never my Boy Scout leader, because, like Little League, I was not eligible. And he was never my counselor at Camp Northland in Minnesota or Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Wyoming.  

So, he never took me into his office and lifted up my shirt on my birthday; he never sat me on his lap with his hand under my dress or inside my panties at recess; he never grabbed or rubbed me between the legs at the Halloween Haunted House; and I never had to share his sleeping bag with his genitals rubbing against my back. These are behaviors alleged by just some of the people who have come forward with their claims of abuse. 

But I had relatives and friends who did attend Hubbard Woods School, several of whom said they avoided Bricker especially on their birthdays. I also had friends and relatives who were in Troop 18, one of whom told me he had been molested. 

And I have this blog. Thanks to a single news article about Bricker from 2005, which I re-posted on my blog in 2007, along with the passage of time, and the rising courage of some brave people who are finally able to come forward, the North Shore's most notorious teacher, scout leader, and camp counselor has been arrested. 

Between fifteen and twenty years ago -- neither one of us can remember exactly -- a childhood friend reconnected with me. We had first met in the 1950's, when we were ten or eleven, riding the bus from summer swimming classes at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL. My first impression of him has stayed with me all these years -- Holy Cow!! He's probably the cutest boy I've ever seen. My second impression? His dark eyes were beyond intense and piercing. They smoldered with anger. In fact, I can still see him staring right through me after a mutual friend introduced us. 

Since we were the same age, I thought [I hoped] we would be in the same grade when school started, except he had been held back that year for some reason. We didn't meet again until high school. As luck would have it, one of my best friends became his high school girlfriend. So he and I became buddies. 

After college we all went our separate ways. My girlfriend married someone else. He did the Haight-Ashbury thing in the Sixties, becoming a roadie for some heavy duty bands, then spending two years traveling throughout India. I started my career in advertising, did improv with Second City's first Monday Night cast, and modeled on the side [I was Miss Goosepimple of 1967 for Zonolite insulation]. 

Thirty years later, when we were in our fifties, he sent me a letter. Still living in California, he was now a divorced father with custody of some or all of his kids. Since they were older, it had been their choice to stay with their dad. Obviously he connected in a good way with his children. He seemed to enjoy single parenthood and he was looking forward to becoming a granddad. 

Later that year, during a 'what's new with you?' phone call, he told me something that raised a red flag about his childhood. Owner of his own business, which had become a turnkey operation, he said he was donating his free time to a nonprofit that helped young, single mothers get back on their feet to find jobs. What did he do to help? He volunteered as a babysitter for their kids. On the face of it, that information seems fairly innocuous. But my sixth sense locked in. 

It is arguably rare for a middle-aged man to volunteer as a babysitter. But rather than just assume he was a pedophile, I wondered whether his obvious care and concern for children might have something to do with being molested himself as a boy? I recalled his angry eyes when we were eleven and how he had been kept back a year in school.  

With a Freudian psychoanalyst for a father, you learn to listen with a third ear. It's not just what people say; it's what you can hear between the words. Eventually this drill becomes automatic, almost second nature. The good news is you can become a more empathetic and understanding person. [I'm still working on that.] The bad news is that it tends to annoy the heck out of your family and friends. Since the unexamined life was never an option for me growing up, I am hardwired with endless curiosity to know what makes people tick. Over time my fallback analysis of people with significant psychological issues is that they have suffered the trauma of sexual abuse -- much to my children's annoyance. "Mom, not EVERYONE has been molested!"  Sometimes, however, I really and truly wonder.

My friends will be shocked to learn that I waited a whole year to find out whether or not my childhood friend had been molested. Listening patiently really isn't one of my greatest strengths. Telling you things is more my style. But I didn't have to ask; he told me. We were discussing something about Bill Bricker [I don't remember the context] and he said, "He molested me." I was stunned. My first thought was, "For once you were right!" Apparently the years of rumors about the charismatic scout leader's alleged behavior might be true after all. Certainly for one boy. But that was just the first step in a journey that has taken the better part of twenty years.

Later that year [still 15-20 years ago if you're keeping track], I talked to someone else who had also been in Bricker's Troop 18. I mentioned to him that someone we knew told me he had been molested by Bricker. Before I could express my own shock at first hearing this news, he suddenly blurted out, "He molested me, too." Without getting into too much detail, his behavior had become quite toxic in his early teens, something his parents chalked up to teenaged rebellion. But happy kids don't act out. Troubled ones do. As an adult he had become an alcoholic. He now thinks people are trying to kill him with microwaves. And yes, he wears an aluminum hat on occasion. He called me a couple of years ago about getting his affairs in order, since he claimed his death was imminent. I asked how soon he was going to die. He said he would be dead in thirty days. Wow. The thirty days have long passed. Now, when he has called, I say things like, "Hey, aren't you supposed to be dead?" A reality check tends to be my fallback when talking to delusional people. His messed up existence is just one example of the aftermath that can occur from sexual abuse. Full disclosure -- he called me later to retract what he had said about being molested. I told him his life said otherwise. 

Suddenly I was carrying an emotional weight that felt very heavy -- to this day. Within days or weeks of each other, two men I had known since childhood had told me that Bill Bricker molested them. 

Did I know anyone else? And I remembered a third possible victim. My girlfriend, whose boyfriend had been the first to tell me about his abuse, had a younger brother who had also been in Bricker's Troop 18. He started hearing voices in high school and committed suicide when he was in college in the Sixties. Like most of the victims coming forward now, he never told anyone he had been molested before his suicide, so we will never know for sure. But killing himself to escape his ferocious inner turmoil, likely caused by an adult he trusted, is another reminder of the damage left in the wake of sexual abuse. 

I remember calling his sister a few years ago to tell her I was fairly convinced that the pain and shame of molestation could explain why he took his life. She felt the same way I did. 

There have been other suicides. In fact, in the early eighties, Time Magazine ran an article on September 1, 1980, about the suicide epidemic on the North Shore, where Bill Bricker had been teaching gym and leading Boy Scouts for thirty years. And some of those kids may have also been his campers at Teton Valley Ranch Camp. They called the 20-mile stretch of wealthy suburbs along the lake "the Suicide Belt." In 17 months, 28 kids had taken their own lives. I have also seen some other estimates which put the number of suicides during that period in the high thirties. At one point this year, a friend and I started making a list of suicides of boys we knew who went to Hubbard Woods or belonged to Boy Scout Troop 18. We stopped at ten. We also started another list of kids we knew whose lives went off the rails. 

I have to stop this narrative for now, because writing this stuff makes me sad. depressed, and not a little angry.

NEXT: A Bill Bricker Backstory Part II: HERE -- Trying to get the story told and hitting a brick wall, again and again. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

Bill Bricker Claims Innocence

According to Michael Lewis, Bricker's criminal defense attorney in Traverse City, MI, Bricker has claimed he is innocent of the charges against him. I believe they will be fighting his extradition to Wyoming. In most cases like this, it will be six months to a year before it goes to trial. Meanwhile, because of the criminal charges against him, Bricker will not be allowed to return to the skilled nursing care facility where he was recovering from a heart attack. So he is living with relatives. 

I hope reading Bill Bricker's claims of innocence, despite charges pending from two generations of campers who attended Teton Valley Ranch Camp, is enough to anger more of his victims from Hubbard Woods School and the Boy Scouts. Enough for them to finally come forward and tell the authorities what they experienced. Even if the statute of limitations in Illinois has passed. Call the Wyoming Sheriff's Office @307-733-4052. 

A Woman in Her Sixties Comes Forward

According to an October 9, 2014, Karen Cullotta story in the Chicago Tribune, another victim who claims she was molested by Bill Bricker, has told her story to the Winnetka police. 

In an old [now deleted] comment from the Glen Arbor Sun's website, we noticed a reference to girls being molested as well as boys. According to the person who commented, some female members from a Hubbard Woods alumni group often talked about inappropriate experiences with Bricker. Perhaps this woman is one of them.  

Thanks to one of our readers for posting the link to the article in the comments of a previous post on this blog. Here's the LINK.

Here's an excerpt from the Tribune article:

The woman told authorities that Bricker would encourage the girls to sit on his lap during indoor recess. She said that on at least one occasion, Bricker put his hand inside her underwear and "rubbed her buttocks," according to the police report.

Winnetka police Chief Patrick Kreis said this week that during the course of a recent investigation into the woman's claim, officials with the Cook County state's attorney office's sex crimes unit determined that charges could not be pursued because the state's statute of limitations had expired.
"We have closed this case in Winnetka, but we have been communicating with the authorities in Wyoming on multiple occasions and will continue to do so as warranted," Kreis said.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Did Bill Bricker Ever Get Married?

Did Bill Bricker ever marry? Yes or no? That question was raised in the comments after the original post [LINK TO COME] One former boy scout in Troop 18 claims that he did get married. As if marriage should absolve him of any claims of sexual abuse. I say he didn't get married, although I found an announcement for an engagement, when he was 48. But, so far, there's no evidence of a marriage taking place following the engagement. Or a divorce for that matter.  

Granted, just getting married doesn't rule out inappropriate sexual behavior with children [Sandusky anyone?]. But Bricker's long bachelorhood and chosen profession[s] could easily be the profile of an alleged pedophile. 

By all accounts [except one], Bricker was a single, never married man. He also chose to work with children well into his sixties [He was 65 in 1985, the year of the second charge of alleged inappropriate behavior with a minor in Wyoming.] 

If that isn't enough, he not only had daily, year round contact with children as a teacher and scout leader, but he also spent his summers as a camp counselor in Wyoming. Did I mention working with children?

Below is a newspaper clipping from the Milwaukee Sentinel or Herald [I'll check later]. In 1968, Bricker got engaged to Alice Kowitz, an NU grad student who was living in Park Ridge, according to this announcement. We have not found a subsequent wedding announcement or a divorce. 

Which seems to beg the question, why did he get engaged in the first place? Was this a smokescreen? 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Navigating this blog for Bill Bricker posts

Since news articles about Bill Bricker's arrest have mentioned this blog, here's how to search for the most Bricker related posts -- scroll down to find the search box in the right hand side bar. Enter "Bill Bricker" into the box. Most of the posts should appear. The very first one, and probably most informative, is entitled, "You can run, but you can't hide." It was originally posted in 2007 to highlight an article in the Glen Arbor (MI) Sun that profiled Bricker in 2005. The comments are very revealing.


• Charlotte Reynolds at Teton County Sheriff's Office -- 307-732-5786
Charlotte is the information officer for the Teton County Sheriffs who are investigating the case. She can take your message and pass it on to the detectives. She can also answer many questions.
• Attorney Marc Pearlman in Chicago -- 312-261-4554 • If you were born after 1965, the statute
of limitations in Illinois may not be an issue. Reminder: There is no statute of limitations for crimes committed in Wyoming
• Teton County Sheriff's office main number -- 307-733-4052 -- an alternate number if you can't reach Charlotte Reynolds

Thursday, September 25, 2014

94-year-old man arrested for Teton Valley Ranch Camp accusations - Jackson Hole News&Guide: Cops & Courts

94-year-old man arrested for Teton Valley Ranch Camp accusations - Jackson Hole News&Guide: Cops & Courts

This link takes you to coverage of Bricker's arrest in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, the local paper for the Teton County area.

All of Bricker's Alleged Victims Can Have Their Say in Court

The warrant for Bill Bricker's arrest on September 23, 2014 was for two alleged sexual assaults that took place in Wyoming. One in 1962 and one in 1985. Based on the number of comments from alleged victims in previous blog posts, that number is probably just the tip of the iceberg. 

While it may seem like there would be no opportunity for Bill Bricker's alleged victims in Illinois to ever face him in court -- statute of limitations, etc -- there is one way you can be heard, while also making an important difference.

Detail your experiences in a letter to the Wyoming court, which can then be entered into evidence during his trial in Wyoming. The legalese is kind of fancy, so I will return with the actual wording of what the procedure is called, after I track it down. 

Think about it. The man is 94 and he's on oxygen. He's not going to live much longer. Before he dies, you have a chance to tell him how his allegedly inappropriate behavior affected your life, how it has made you feel, changed you, along with anything else you want to say. Meanwhile, he has to sit in court and listen while a litany of his alleged transgressions is read into the record. 

People always talk about closure. For me, Bricker's arrest after all these years is closure. He should have been prosecuted decades ago. Anyone who protected him is just as guilty. That includes the police, the boy scouts, and the school system. 

All I did was to find an article about him, written in 2005, which I posted here in 2007. 

After that, it was the people who read and commented on this blog who got the job done. You and the tenacious Teton County Sheriff's detectives. You and attorney Marc Pearlman. You and the courageous boy scouts who got tired of living with the burden of what Bill Bricker did to them.

  In my opinion, Wyoming is light years ahead of the Illinois courts in cases like this. This is a unique opportunity to get a lifetime of shame and guilt off your chest. 

Call the Teton Country Sheriff's Office in Jackson, WY @307-733-4052. Find out how to submit your letter to the court. 

Deputies arrest 94-year-old man for allegedly sexually assaulting children

Deputies arrest 94-year-old man for allegedly sexually assaulting children: A 94-year-old man was arraigned on Thursday in Grand Traverse County after an arrest warrant was issued in the state of Wyoming for allegedly sexually assaulting a child.

Check out the link to see Bricker's mugshot and read the article. Apparently there are two charges -- one that occurred in 1962. The other which occurred in 1985. Allegedly. It is not too late to contact the Teton County Sheriff's office in WY. 307-733-4052. The more victims who step up, even from Illinois, the stronger the case.

1962. Fifty years ago. Then 1985. Twenty some years later. And how many in between? As well as before and after. Bricker joined the scouts In the late thirties.

One other factoid. Bricker was a Scoutmaster in the late forties, when Winnetka's own Donald Rumsfeld was working on becoming an Eagle Scout.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bill Bricker Has Been Arrested

I received a phone call from law enforcement today. Bill Bricker has been
arrested for alleged crimes against minors in Wyoming. I do not have details. Wyoming does not have a statute of limitations. Illinois does. 

I do not know whether Bricker is out on bail. I do not know whether he will be extradited. I only know that he has been arrested.

UPDATE: Bricker is being held on $150,000 bond in Grand Traverse County Jail in Michigan, pursuant to extradition to Wyoming. He is the former Scoutmaster of Troop 18 and gym teacher at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, IL, who spent his summers as a wrangler at Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Jackson, WY. More than two generations of children may finally get some justice.