Sex Abuse Scandal Haunts Harlem Boys Choir

The world-renowned Boys Choir of Harlem has been thrilling audiences around the world for more than 30 years.

It has performed at the White House, the United Nations and the Vatican. But last month, the choir was evicted from its home in a Harlem public school -- cash-strapped and tarnished by a case of child sexual abuse and an alleged cover-up.

A Unique School

The Choir Academy of Harlem was unique. Sean Watts, 18, traveled more than an hour on the subway to attend the school.

The school had an unusual arrangement. In 1993, Walter Turnbull, the founding director of the Boys Choir of Harlem, struck a deal with the City of New York. The choir would gain a home in a public school rent-free, and in exchange, Turnbull would provide first-rate musical instruction to more than 600 inner-city kids.

Students say the choir provided much more than voice coaching.

"It was the father figure, even though I had a father figure at the house," Watts said. "It was just that extra drive and that extra push."

For Watts, Turnbull was a wonderful mentor and role model.

Locked Out

But last month, the choir was locked out from the Choir Academy; its agreement with the city to work in the public school system withdrawn by the Bloomberg administration.

Citing financial mismanagement and a failure to provide musical instruction, city officials evicted the Boys Choir from the Choir Academy, locking out its staff and blocking its rehearsals on school grounds.

Turnbull, the choir's director, says he is bewildered by the city's reaction. "I don't have all of the answers of why the city wants to shut it down," he said.

There is another reason for the choir's soured relations with the city -- one that neither wants to discuss. City officials first called for Turnbull's removal from the school two years ago because of what had happened to one choir boy.

Crime and 'Cover-Up'

David Pinks, 20, literally grew up in the Boys Choir of Harlem. He called it his "second home." Pinks spent long hours rehearsing with the world-famous choral group, and for his effort, he traveled far and wide to perform.

"It was wonderful." Pinks said. "I have been to every place in like North America, and then you know outside of that, Israel, Europe, you know places in Puerto Rico."

But hard work was not the only price Pinks had to pay for choir life. In his first-ever public interview, Pinks said a sexual predator began to "groom" him for abuse, and, he says, a culture of silence in the organization let it go unchecked.

Song of Silence

The abuser was Frank Jones Jr., the Boys Choir of Harlem's director of counseling for more than 20 years.

He was also the choir's summer-camp director and its chaperone on tour.

"At the choir, on tours, wherever the choir was at, Jones was. So he was with us 24/7," Pinks told "Nightline."

It began, Pinks says, as a friendship when he was 12 years old.

"He was, you know, a mentor. He already gained my trust so I didn't think Jones was going to do anything to hurt me," Pinks said.

"From the hugs came kisses, you know, from the kisses led to other things."

Pinks said that his special relationship with Jones became an open secret in the Boys Choir's closely knit community and that he became the object of ridicule.

"People were saying that I was coming out of his room with my underwear on backward," he said. "So right there you know, you can't tell anybody."

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