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Father alleges Boy Scout cover-up in porn investigation

Leaders never reported alleged crime to police

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SUNRISE, Fla. – It started with allegations that a Boy Scout leader showed hard-core pornography to several boys in a Sunrise church parking lot during a scouting event, and, according to one father, led to a cover-up by Scout leadership that went to the top of the South Florida Council.

Joe Gonzalez said his 12-year-old son told him that volunteer leader Mark Kern, 48, showed porn videos to him and several other boys, ages roughly 10-16, in Troop 309.

"He starts opening up his Google and starts showing girls in bikinis -- that's how it started," Gonzalez said. "From that, it got into porn -- hard-core porn."

Gonzalez's son didn't find it entertaining or appropriate.

"He was confused by it and kind of creeped out by the fact that it was brought to him by an adult, not to mention his leader," Gonzalez said, adding that he was livid about it.

Gonzalez said other boys corroborated the story, and he reported it to another troop leader, Aaron Moore, who happens to be a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy.

It is a felony to show obscene material to minors, and Boy Scout policy demands that any "showing of obscene material" be reported to local authorities immediately. The proper authority in this case was the Sunrise Police Department, but police weren't notified.

"That's when (troop leader) Steve (Zanetti) stepped in and said, 'OK, we're going to contain this in the troop. We're going to take care of it right here in the troop amongst us,'" Gonzalez said. "(I said), 'Wait a minute. You can't do that.'"

Gonzalez said the proper protocol -- to contact authorities and report it to the district -- wasn't followed.

About a month later, Gonzalez said, he learned the South Florida Council, located in Miami Lakes, had removed Kern from the troop.

"But yet the very next meeting he was back again, hanging out with the boys in the parking lot," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez then sent emails of complaint to troop leadership.

"All hell broke loose," Gonzalez said. "They came after me full bore."

Kern replied by writing an email claiming that Gonzalez and his son were lying.

"The incident at the church, the older boys and I were discussing girls and pulling pictures up on our phones commonly available on Google," Kern wrote. "They were absolutely risqué, but not pornographic, as his son lied and said. All of the boys questioned gave an accurate account of what [sic] happed that was not the same as the one [Gonzalez's son] presented to his father. There was no criminal act, there was no deviant behavior and there was no lifetime ban. I simply stepped back for the benefit of the troop and the boys so they did not have to deal with an issue that was obviously a retaliatory ploy on the part of Joe Gonzalez."

Kern ended his email with threat of a lawsuit.

"All of this needs to stop or I will send copies of all of the correspondence to my attorney and instruct to him to file a libel law suit against Joe Gonzalez for as much money as I am legally allowed to go after," Kern wrote. "I can prove my position. Can Joe prove his? Will all of you allow him to destroy our troop and its leadership because he cannot have his way?"

Taking Kern's side were other troop leaders, including Linda Jensen, also Zanetti's girlfriend.

"If I thought for a second something was wrong, I would have pressed charges," Jensen wrote. "But it's been established and proven you [and your son] have lied."

Gonzalez said he learned that other boys involved were in fact changing their stories, saying it wasn't porn after all, but simply girls in bikinis.

"Those boys didn't lie (on their own). They were told what to do," Gonzalez said. "That whole story about the bikini and all that, that didn't come from the boys. They didn't make that up. That was given to them."

It doesn't appear that Moore, the BSO deputy, reported it either. He began threatening Gonzalez with arrest if he didn't stop complaining about the incident and other issues in the troop to protect the "309 Legacy."

"If it requires restraining orders or even an injunction, I will pursue that course of action to protect the 309 Legacy," Moore wrote. "I will file a police report to have you properly charged with sending harassing, slanderous, defaming messages."

Gonzalez finally went to Brick Huffman, the top executive in the South Florida Council, but Huffman never reported the incident to the Sunrise police either. Huffman refused to go on camera but issued a statement.

"Last December we were notified of inappropriate behavior exhibited by an adult volunteer leader," he wrote. "At that time, we promptly removed the individual from scouting."

Finally, Gonzalez filed a police report at the Sunrise Police Department himself. Sunrise police Detective David Lowenstein wrote in his report that five scouts gave similarly graphic descriptions of the explicit hard-core porn they were shown by Kern. Lowenstein wrote that Kern then made a voluntary statement in the case and admitted to showing the boys pornographic video clips on his phone. He was booked into the Broward County jail on two felony counts of distributing obscene material to minors.

Gonzalez said he wants the story out there as a cautionary tale for other Boy Scout troops around the country.

"Everybody's trying to protect the legacy of the Boy Scouts," he said. "What are you talking about? ... The program is based on trust, loyalty, honesty. If you can't trust your leaders to act in those same accordances, how can you expect the kids to?"

Gonzales said he wondered how often similar stories have played out in other troops.

"There's got to be other cases that people just kind of swept under the rug," he said. "And how severe were they?"