AMERICAN FORK — The Boy Scout program seemed the perfect place for an emotionally fragile 12-year-old boy to learn confidence and leadership skills under the direction of trusted leaders.
But his parents couldn't figure out why their son always returned from camps angry and dark.
Several years later, their now 17-year-old son told them it was because he had been sexually abused by his Scout leader, Gary Wade Brown.
"I was shocked, stunned," the boy's stepfather said. "We really believed Wade was a good leader, trustworthy, kind, loving, (but it) turned out that he was exploitive."
Brown, 42, was sentenced to a year in jail Monday morning as a result of pleading guilty to four felonies of sexual abuse of a child and one charge of sexual exploitation of a minor. He will get credit for the eight months he's already been in jail.
Police say Brown confessed to touching the genitals of the young man several times, and having the young man touch his, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court. The abuse happened at Brown's house in Orem, in his car and during Scout outings, sometimes with other boys or leaders just feet away, the boy's stepfather said.
The boy is on a good path now, and his family has chosen to forgive Brown and not become bitter, the stepfather said, but the entire process has taught them not to hand out "blanket trust" anymore.
They also want other families to be more aware of who their children are with and what they're doing, even if it's with church leaders.
"He's in our prayers," the stepfather said of Brown. "We hope for him to get help."
Brown wept openly as he apologized to the boy and the boy's family, his own family and the Boy Scouts of America.
"It's obvious that my actions have rippled through the community," he said. "I'm sorry for what I've done. I take full responsibility for it. Those are my actions. No one else is to blame but me."
Brown's family acknowledged his inexcusable crimes, but said he is a good father and a compassionate man who began the process of taking responsibility by eventually asking that he be removed as a Scout leader.
"He hasn't shifted blame," said his mother, Kaye Brown. "He has taken it on himself."
Brown's wife, Sheri, disagreed, and in a strongly worded letter to the court, described 19 years of marital abuse and Brown's selfish double life.
"By his actions Wade betrayed us all," she wrote in a letter read by a current LDS Church home teacher. She was out of state taking care of her very ill mother. "By choosing to leave his family emotionally, spiritually then physically, he's torn us in every direction."
Family members and defense attorney Shelden Carter asked the judge to keep in mind that Sheri Brown recently filed for divorce.
Neither the victim's family nor prosecutors asked for prison time, as part of a plea deal and in the best interest of the victim, who avoided having to testify in court.
Because of that and a report that placed Brown in the low-to-moderate risk category, Judge Christine Johnson ruled "intensive probation" for three years would be acceptable after extra jail time.
However, she sternly reminded Brown that prison was only one mistake away if he failed to do treatment or was around children unsupervised. He also has to register as a sex offender.
"You were his Scout leader," she told Brown. "He trusted you and you took advantage of him time and time again. I don't think I can order anything to give back what you've taken from this young man."