Accused Scout Leader Says He’s Been Defamed

     MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CN) — A former Boy Scout troop leader who is facing criminal charges of sexual assault and child pornography sued a New Jersey newspaper for defamation, saying they botched reporting key aspects of the case.
     In 2011 Stephen Corcoran, a former Boy Scout troop leader, was named as a third-party defendant in a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, which alleged that Corcoran sexually assaulted three scouts during the 1990s and that the Boy Scouts of covered up the crime.
     Corcoran’s case has garnered intense local coverage, especially from the Bergen Record and online site NJ.com.
     One of the articles, published on July 25, 2015, quoted attorney Victor Herlinsky of Sills Cummis & Gross, who represented one of the boys, as stating that Corcoran was arrested in 2011 for the alleged child pornography crime and that it wasn’t an isolated incident. Several other articles published on NJ.com and in the Record before and after that July 2015 article referenced the arrest and charges against Corcoran.
     However, according to the July 6 lawsuit filed by Corcoran against Herlinsky, that isn’t true. “Although Corcoran is facing serious criminal charges, he was not arrested ‘for showing child pornography to a Boy Scout,'” the defamation lawsuit states, noting that Herlinsky has used press articles to put pressure on Corcoran.
     “The litigation privilege does not protect attorneys who make false and defamatory statements outside the courtroom to the media, in order to ‘try their case in the press’ rather than in the courtroom,” the lawsuit states.
     Authorities were informed about possible child pornography on Corcoran’s home computer in 2011 but he wasn’t arrested right away because the man who made the allegations—one of Corcoran’s former scouts—was 18 years old at the time, according to reports.
     However, more allegations were made against Corcoran and the Morris County Prosecutor’s office charged him in late 2012 with sexually abusing two Boy Scouts after obtaining a search warrant and finding child pornography on a thumb drive at his home.
     Corcoran’s defense attorneys have argued that the child pornography charges and the sexual assault charges are unrelated and that they should not be joined in court proceedings. In January Judge William McGovern ruled in Corcoran’s favor, stating the charges should not be inter-mingled.
     The suit also takes issue with other quotes attributed to Herlinksy that insinuate the Boy Scouts had covered up Corcoran’s alleged sexual abuse.
     In July 2015 Judge Robert Polifroni ordered the release of secret records held by the Boy Scouts to lawyers in the case. The Boy Scouts have fought to keep those and similar files on ineligible volunteers, referred to in court proceedings as “the Perversion Files,” under wraps.
     Several articles have insinuated that the Boy Scouts have helped cover up molestation and rape incidents by not turning over the files. Dozens of former scout leaders and volunteers have been accused and convicted of sexual crimes involving scouts.
     Herlinsky praised Polifroni’s decision and was quoted by the Record in the July 2015 article as saying that “this decision forces the national Boy Scouts organization to come clean and reveal their cover-up of pedophiles in the ranks and their crimes against children.”
     Herlinsky’s comments regarding the release of those files in the July 2015 article “deliberately convey the false impression to the general public that a judicial officer had placed his official imprimateur and made a ‘decision’ or findings concerning what, at the time, were simply his client’s unproven allegations,” Corcoran’s lawsuit states.
     Corcoran, who is now 47 years old, had been a long-time troop leader for a Boy Scout troop in Parsippany. He has consistently refuted the charges and has said he is not gay nor possesses child pornography.
     During the trial, allegations against Corcoran included that he had taken the three scouts to dark areas-including a hotel room and on top of a boat near West Point — to have sex with them. Corcoran often plied the boys with alcohol and told them he was bisexual, and that it was okay if they were, too, according to testimony from one of the alleged victims.
     The case against Corcoran has gotten heated in recent years, with Corcoran claiming one of the alleged victims planted a thumb drive with incriminating pictures in his home in an effort to frame him. Corcoran’s defense attorneys also have said one of the victims is a heroin user and that his testimony cannot be trusted, and that another is merely out for money.
     In early 2015 defense attorney Peter Gilbreth reportedly withdrew from representing Corcoran due to “information” that had come to light. Corcoran is now represented by Alan Albin of Morristown, New Jersey.
     NJ.com is owned by New Jersey Advance Media, which was purchased earlier this month by Gannett Company. Both New Jersey Advance Media and Gannett are named defendants in the defamation lawsuit, as well as North Jersey Media Group, which owns the Record.
     Record reporter Mary Jo Layton, who wrote the original article about Corcoran’s arrest in 2012 and the referenced July 2015 article, and NJ.com reporter Justin Zaremba also are named defendants.
     Albin on the defamation lawsuit declined to comment. Legal representatives for New Jersey Advance Media and North Jersey Media Group did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

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