Attorneys, judge hold conference for former Boy Scout leader accused of sexual abuse in 2004

Jason L. Endress in July 2023

OREGON – An Ogle County judge held a special conference Monday with attorneys for a former Boy Scout leader accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy 20 years ago.

Jason L. Endress, 45, of Morrison, is charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse stemming from incidents alleged to have occurred in 2004, when he was a director at Camp Lowden, a Boy Scout camp east of Oregon.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

On Monday, Endress appeared in court briefly before attorney James Mertes and Assistant State’s Attorney Allison Huntley retired to Judge John Redington’s chambers to conduct a 402 conference hearing.

A 402 conference is intended to be an open process in which attorneys and a judge discuss relevant information regarding the case and a potential outcome. Defendants are not present during the conference but must agree to waive their presence before it is held.

Mertes requested the 402 conference in March.

After the conference, Redington set a status hearing for 1 p.m. July 10.

Endress, a teacher at Clinton High School in Clinton, Iowa, for 22 years, was put on paid administrative leave in August 2023.

He was arrested June 25, 2023, after the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office received a call June 23 from Emily Cross, chief operating officer of the Blackhawk Area Council, who told police that the organization’s hotline received a call with the allegations.

The council is chartered by the national Boy Scouts of America and is headquartered in Rockford, serving southwestern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois. In Illinois, it runs Canyon Camp, between Stockton and Apple River, and Camp Lowden.

During an August preliminary hearing, Ogle County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Ketter testified that he contacted the hotline caller who said he was a camper at Camp Lowden in 2003 and 2004, when Endress, then 25, was a director.

According to court documents, the alleged sexual contact occurred May 24 and Sept. 6, 2004. Ketter also testified that he and an Illinois State Police special agent listened in on a telephone conversation that the alleged victim had with Endress.

Endress is free on $100,000 bond after posting 10%, or $10,000. He has no criminal history in Iowa or the Sauk Valley area, according to court records.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.