Are these criticisms fair? Perhaps -- if you assume the accuracy of Brown's recollections and believe that it's generally fair and reasonable to prosecute people for crimes allegedly committed 40 years ago. I don't. Without doubting Brown's truthfulness, I reserve the prerogative to question his memory after 40 years, as well as his original 10-year-old boy perception of the alleged molestation. An allegation of abuse is just that -- an allegation, not an item of reliable information.
For legal purposes, an allegation becomes information and the basis of a criminal conviction or civil liability only through a process of testing and substantiation (in other words, a trial), a process that becomes increasingly unreliable with the passage of time. Statutes of limitation -- laws requiring cases to be initiated within specified time periods from the commission of alleged crimes or torts -- are necessitated by evidentiary difficulties like the death or disappearance of witnesses and their tendency to forget or distort important details over time. In recent years, statutes of limitation for child abuse cases have been dramatically lengthened, thanks partly to hysteria about recovered memories but also, at least in Massachusetts, in response to historic cover-ups of abuse by the Catholic Church.
Statutes of limitation for child abuse are now exceptionally permissive in Massachusetts; the statutory scheme (enacted when Scott Brown was a state senator) is a bit complicated but essentially allows for prosecution decades after the alleged abuse. It might or might not allow Brown's alleged molester to be tried, assuming he's still alive and apprehendable. So, all things considered, a successful prosecution seems unlikely. But it's quite likely that any living person named by Brown would be publicly condemned as a child abuser anyway, without proof of guilt, and made vulnerable to various forms of vigilante justice. The question before Brown, to name or not to name, is more complicated morally than his critics acknowledge.
It's further complicated by the emergence of additional claims of abuse at Camp Good News. Brown "empowered others to come forward," Joan Vennochi observes (13 others so far.) Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, famous for representing victims of pedophile priests, remarks, "It's a snowball effect. They are inspired by other people coming forward.'' No doubt. But are the accusations inspired by Brown's book accurate or true?
Press coverage of the developing scandal and discussions of Brown's proper role in it tend to treat the abuse allegations as true, and belief in them has been bolstered by the suicide of an accused camp worker, Chuck Devita. Even Devita's own mother believes in his guilt, Garabedian stresses. She claims that she had suspected her son of abusing children and reported her suspicions to camp officials (they deny her account.) Apparently unburdened by maternal sentimentality, she welcomes his suicide: "(H)e did the right thing, because he knew he couldn't come to me with that,'' Sandra Devita told the Boston Globe.