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Boy Scouts shield abuser files used to vet volunteers

 

By SCOTT K. PARKS / The Dallas Morning News
sparks@dallasnews.com

The Boy Scouts of America calls them the "perversion files."

clikEnlarge Boy Scouts shield abuser files used to vet volunteers MIKE DAVIS/Special Contributor

MIKE DAVIS/Special Contributor

Kelly Clark (left) and Paul Mones, attorneys for former Scout Kerry Lewis, gained access to ‘ineligible volunteer files’ and won an $18.5 million jury verdict against the Boy Scouts in April. They argued officials could have used the files to gauge their pedophilia problem.

The stories locked inside a neat row of metal file cabinets at BSA headquarters in Irving would sicken the most callous reader. Many of them document the activities of a pedophile banned from Scouting for molesting boys in tents, on hikes or while helping them earn merit badges.

The BSA, the nation’s premier youth organization, its wholesome image honed by iconic Norman Rockwell paintings throughout the 20th century, has meticulously kept the files since the 1920s.

They number in the thousands, but no one knows much about them because Scout executives and their lawyers insist they remain confidential.

Now, a growing chorus of critics is calling on the Scouts to open their sexual secrets to public scrutiny. They argue that the files contain a treasure trove of misdeeds that academic researchers and law enforcement might use to learn more about man-on-boy pedophilia.

"These files represent the largest reservoir of information ever gathered on the sexual abuse of boys in the United States, bar none," said Paul Mones, an Oregon lawyer who represents former Scouts who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of adult Scoutmasters.

"Even before the pediatric medical community and the law enforcement community knew the extent of the problem, the Boy Scouts knew about it and kept it a secret," Mones said.

Another lawyer, from Seattle, who also represents former Scouts in sex abuse cases against the BSA, provided The Dallas Morning News with a hint of what the files contain – spreadsheets indexing 5,133 files opened between 1947 and 2005. The News has not seen the actual files.

The Scouts regularly open new files. But they insist the information be kept confidential to protect those who report sexual abuse from retaliation, to shield child victims from exposure and to protect the Scouts from defamation claims brought by suspected pedophiles named in the files.

Scouting executives say the perversion files represent a tiny fraction of the millions of adult volunteers involved in Scouting over the years, and they contend that the pedophile problem is no worse in Scouting than in public schools or in other youth organizations.

The BSA also insists the files hold no value for academic or law enforcement researchers hoping to gain greater insight into pedophilia.

"Accordingly, while local Boy Scout councils are required to report any suspicion of inappropriate conduct to law enforcement, The BSA believes – and third parties have confirmed – that the files are not useful from a research perspective," Scout executives wrote in a prepared statement to The Dallas Morning News.

6 categories of files

Formally, the Scouts refer to the files as "the ineligible volunteer files," or the "I.V. files." Each one is labeled with the name of a Scoutmaster, Cub Scout den leader or other adult volunteer who has been banned from Scouting for wrongdoing. Nathaniel Marshall, the Scout executive who keeps the files, says they are separated into six categories:

• C-Criminal (murderers, robbers and such)

• F-Financial (thieves who steal from the Scouts or others)

• M-Moral (gays banned from Scouting)

• L-Leadership (bad-tempered or mean volunteers)

• R-Religious (atheists or agnostics banned from Scouting)

• P-Perversion (pedophilia, rape, child pornography, public lewdness and other sex-related crimes or incidents)

A few of the files involve men who never even made it into Scouting. Their misdeeds were noted by local Scout executives and a file was opened just in case they ever applied to get involved in Scouting.

But the vast majority of the I.V. files involve pedophile adult volunteers and some paid Scout leaders. They run the gamut from those only suspected of wrongdoing to those serving prison time after criminal convictions.

Some files are thin, with only basic information about the pedophile. Others are thick and stuffed with court records, witness statements and other investigative material.

All of the files end up in the innocuously named "membership resources office." There is only one set of keys to the file cabinets, Marshall said.

Scout executives say they use the perversion files for only one reason: to keep pedophiles or other sexual deviants out of Scouting. When someone attempts to register as an adult volunteer, the application goes to the membership office. Clerks make sure the prospective volunteer is not someone named in an I.V. file.

The BSA also performs criminal background checks for all volunteer applicants. Successful applicants are subject to background checks every three years.

Notations in the file indices obtained by The News indicate the system often works. Pedophiles caught and banned by the BSA have tried to reapply to become Scoutmasters. But their applications have been denied for wrongdoings logged into the I.V. files.

Scout executives say they’ve never analyzed the files or used them to generate statistics on pedophilia in Scouting. Nor have they used them to determine whether their policies to protect Scouts from pedophiles are working.

Are the pedophile Scoutmasters married or single? Do they have children in the troop? How old are they? Where did the molestation occur? In a tent on a campout? On a hike? In a school or church basement? In the pedophile’s home or apartment? Did the pedophile groom a single victim during a long-term relationship, or did he victimize several Scouts in a troop?

Scout executives haven’t used the I.V. files to find the answers, but they insist they are aggressively pursuing improvements in their Youth Protection Program.

"The more we learned about pedophilia, we got tuned in to that very quickly," James Terry, the assistant chief Scout executive, told The News. "We got serious about it."

Critics disagree. They say the Scouts could redact the I.V. files – black out the names of alleged pedophiles, victims and those who reported the abuse – and then share them with experts to learn more about pedophilia and the effectiveness of Scout policies.

In the mid-1980s, as their awareness of pedophilia grew, the Scouts instituted the "two-deep leadership" rule that forbids Scoutmasters and other volunteers to be alone with a Scout.

And, yet, the Scouts acknowledge that they have never searched the I.V. files to see if the policy is working.

Even child sexual abuse experts sympathetic to the BSA’s cause question their reluctance to share the files or expand their use.

Dr. David Finkelhor, a well-known expert in crimes against children, once was a member of the BSA’s Youth Protection Expert Advisory Panel, a working group of Scout executives and outsiders from academia and law enforcement. The committee was supposed to be working on programs to educate Scouts about pedophiles and other dangerous people.

In April 2009, Finkelhor testified in a sworn deposition that he had become frustrated with Scout executives because they refused to allow him or anyone else to examine the perversion files to see if youth protection policies were working.

"It never seemed to get on their agenda," said Finkelhor, who runs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

He wasn’t the only child safety expert who became disenchanted with the Scouts and the Youth Protection Program.

Kenneth V. Lanning, a retired FBI agent who specializes in crimes against children, also served on the BSA’s expert advisory panel for almost 10 years. In April 2005, he sent a letter to Boy Scout headquarters announcing his resignation from the volunteer group.

Lanning said his resignation stemmed from "my perception that the BSA response to and attitude regarding [the advisory panel] fails to convey an adequate understanding and recognition of the problem of the sexual exploitation of children."

File use in court

No one knows how many I.V. files exist. The BSA won’t provide numbers. But the public has gotten glimpses from court records when former Scouts file personal injury suits alleging that the BSA and its local troop councils failed to prevent abuse by Scoutmasters or assistant Scoutmasters.

Last April, a Portland, Ore., jury awarded former Scout Kerry Lewis $18.5 million in punitive damages after finding the BSA negligent for not protecting him against abuse by a known pedophile Scoutmaster in the 1980s.

Throughout the trial, Lewis’ lawyers argued that Scout executives acted irresponsibly by not using the I.V. files to get a more complete picture of their pedophilia problem, and the jury apparently agreed.

The verdict jolted the Scouts. Since April, the BSA has instituted mandatory youth protection training for all Scoutmasters and other registered volunteers.

Last month, the BSA hired Michael V. Johnson, a respected detective recently retired from the Plano Police Department, as its director of youth protection.

"One of the reasons I accepted this job is the commitment of [top Scout executives] that they want to be on the forefront of youth protection," Johnson said.

Johnson said he has not formed an opinion about what, if anything, to do with the I.V. files.

The $18.5 million jury verdict in Portland also drove the BSA to settle five similar sex abuse cases late last month. But the Scouts still face numerous other cases across the U.S.

During the Portland trial, the Scouts were forced to give Lewis’ lawyers 1,587 I.V. files opened between 1965 and 1985. The vast majority, 1,123 files, were in the perversion category.

Janet Warren, an expert witness hired by the Scouts, testified that she reviewed many of the files in preparation for the trial.

"It was very limited what you could learn from these files," testified Warren, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia.

Warren also cautioned jurors to put the number of abuse incidents into perspective.

"By contrast, there would be somewhere between 100,000 and a million incidents where Boy Scouts went on camping trips or went to the home of their Scout leader to do a merit badge and was not accosted or hurt in any way," she said.

Even though the I.V. files from 1965 to 1985 were entered into evidence during the Lewis trial, a procedure that usually makes information public, the Scouts are fighting to keep them confidential. And the judge in the Lewis case has issued a protective order to keep the files secret.

The Associated Press and several other news organizations have filed a motion with the Oregon Supreme Court to make the files public. The court has yet to rule.

The public got another glimpse of the I.V. files in a similar series of lawsuits filed by former Scouts against the BSA in the state of Washington.

Tim Kosnoff, one of the plaintiff lawyers, prepared spreadsheets indexing 5,133 I.V. files opened between 1947 and 2005. He has read the material in hundreds of those files.

"To the extent there are any Scouts reasonably safe today, it has nothing to do with Scouting," he said. "It is parents. Show me a troop where parents are actively involved and I’ll show you a safe troop.

"For too many parents, Scouting is a free baby-sitting service. And pedophiles don’t go after the kids whose dads are active. They look for the kid who is craving adult male attention."

Dr. Gary Schoener, a Minneapolis psychologist, testified as an expert witness for the plaintiff in the Portland case.

The perversion files started as a noble idea, an effective tool to keep track of pedophiles, he said.

But somewhere along the way, the Scouts became concerned about the possible legal liabilities of storing vast amounts of raw data about pedophiles and their victims. The reluctance to analyze the data seems designed to limit liability, Schoener said.

Even so, Schoener and other critics acknowledge the good things that BSA has done for youth around the world during the last 100 years.

"The Boy Scouts have done some fine work, but they could do it better," he said. "This is about the good guys not being good enough."

Boy Scouts, accusers settle sex abuse lawsuits

The Standard Examiner

PORTLAND, Ore. — Six men who were sexually abused three decades ago by a leader of their Boy Scouts troop have settled lawsuits against the national organization dedicated to building character among youngsters.

The settlement followed a trial in which the Scouts were accused of failing to act for decades on a growing trove of documents alleging sexual abuse — known in the organization as "the perversion files."

In April, an Oregon jury awarded the first of the six victims to go to trial nearly $20 million from the century- old, congressionally chartered organization.

"I’m glad it’s over with. I’m glad the jury heard us and believed us," said Kerry Lewis, an unemployed former factory worker who now lives in Medford, Ore.

"Other children in the future will have more protection than I did."

Lewis agreed during the trial to be identified in news stories. He participated by telephone with his lawyers at a news conference Wednesday.

The second trial was scheduled in October.

Lawyers for the men said the settlement agreement was reached last week.

Only one of the financial details was made public, and that because it would be a matter of public record: The state of Oregon will be paid $2.25 million in punitive damages.

By law, the state gets 60 percent of punitive damage awards in Oregon. But plaintiffs’ lawyer Kelly Clark cautioned against making calculations based on the state’s allocation.

"You can’t just do the math," he said. "It’s not even close."

The other five men were prepared to go to trial, Clark said. All six were determined not to settle individually, he said, and all settled because they are "in the process of getting on with their lives and getting healed."

He refused to say whether they would have equal settlements.

The jury found the Texas-based Boy Scouts of America negligent for allowing a former assistant scoutmaster, Timur Dykes, to associate with Scouts after he admitted to a Scouts official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys.

"We extend our sympathies to the victims and are pleased to have reached a settlement which will both prevent these men from reliving their experiences during a trial and allow BSA to focus even more intently on the continued enhancement of our youth protection program," Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith said in an e-mail.

Journalists have sought the documents the jury saw, and the Oregon Supreme Court is considering whether to make them public.

The Boy Scouts have settled sex abuse lawsuits out of court before, although the exact number is not known because not all are announced.

But an expert on the subject, Patrick Boyle, has said the Scouts were sued at least 60 times in 1984-92 for alleged sex abuse, with settlements and judgments totaling more than $16 million.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said they represent more than a dozen victims in similar sex abuse cases, mainly in the West and Florida.

Given the evidence from two decades worth of Scouts documents, the number of instances of sexual abuse that go unreported and the number of victims that sexual predators typically have, the pending cases represent a sliver of what are likely tens of thousands of cases of abuse, said Paul Mones, another attorney for the six men.

"During the trial, we heard from men in their 60s and 70s who were molested in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s," he said.

Paying punitive damages to the state constituted an acknowledgment of wrongdoing from the Scouts, he said.

He said the jury verdict led the organization to require training in abuse issues for its volunteers and to hire a former police officer as a child protection advocate.

"Basically, hopefully, it’s a new day for the Boy Scouts now."

 

6 Ore. Men Settle Boy Scout Sex Abuse Cases

NPR
By The Associated Press

Six men who were sexually abused three decades ago by a leader of their Boy Scouts troop have settled lawsuits against the national organization dedicated to building character among youngsters.

The settlement followed a trial in which the Scouts were accused of failing to act for decades on a growing trove of documents alleging sexual abuse — known in the organization as "the perversion files."

In April, an Oregon jury awarded the first of the six victims to go to trial nearly $20 million from the century-old, congressionally chartered organization.

"I’m glad it’s over with. I’m glad the jury heard us and believed us," said Kerry Lewis, an unemployed former factory worker who now lives in Medford, Ore. "Other children in the future will have more p

rotection than I did."

Lewis agreed during the trial to be identified in news stories. He participated by telephone with his lawyers at a news conference Wednesday.

The second trial was scheduled in October. Lawyers for the men said the settlement agreement was reached last week.

Only one of the financial details was made public, and that because it would be a matter of public record: The state of Oregon will be paid $2.25 million in punitive damages.

By law, the state gets 60 percent of punitive damage awards in Oregon. But plaintiffs’ lawyer Kelly Clark cautioned against making calculations based on the state’s allocation.

"You can’t just do the math," he said. "It’s not even close."

The other five men were prepared to go to trial, Clark said. All six were determined not to settle individually, he said, and all settled because they are "in the process of getting on with their lives and getting healed."

He refused to say whether they would have equal settlements.

The jury found the Texas-based Boy Scouts of America negligent for allowing a former assistant scoutmaster, Timur Dykes, to associate with Scouts after he admitted to a Scouts official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys.

"We extend our sympathies to the victims and are pleased to have reached a settlement which will both prevent these men from reliving their experiences during a trial and allow BSA to focus even more intently on the continued enhancement of our youth protection program," Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith said in an e-mail.

Journalists have sought the documents the jury saw, and the Oregon Supreme Court is considering whether to make them public.

The Boy Scouts have settled sex abuse lawsuits out of court before, although the exact number is not known because not all are announced.

But an expert on the subject, Patrick Boyle, has said the Scouts were sued at least 60 times in 1984-92 for alleged sex abuse, with settlements and judgments totaling more than $16 million.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said they represent more than a dozen victims in similar sex abuse cases, mainly in the West and Florida.

Given the evidence from two decades worth of Scouts documents, the number of instances of sexual abuse that go unreported and the number of victims that sexual predators typically have, the pending cases represent a sliver of what are likely tens of thousands of cases of abuse, said Paul Mones, another attorney for the six men.

"During the trial we heard from men in their 60s and 70s who were molested in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s," he said.

Paying punitive damages to the state constituted an acknowledgment of wrongdoing from the Scouts, he said. He said the jury verdict led the organization to require training in abuse issues for its volunteers and to hire a former police officer as a child protection advocate.

"Basically, hopefully, it’s a new day for the Boy Scouts now," Mones said.

Men reach settlement with Boy Scouts in abuse cases

Portland Tribune

Six men who were abused by a Boy Scout leader in the 1980s reached a financial settlement with the Boy Scouts of America.

The settlement includes a requirement that the Boy Scouts pay the state $2.25 million as 60 percent of the punitive damages in the case.

The amount of the settlement was kept confidential. It came five months after a Multnomah County jury awarded Kerry Lewis $19.9 million in damages for abuse he suffered at the hands of Assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes.

The trial in April featured for the first time the secret files – what the Boy Scouts calls its “Perversion Files” – with more than 20,000 pages of documents on child abuse, demonstrating that the organization was aware for decades of the size and scale of its child abuse problem.

Five other men also abused by Dykes in the same troop were scheduled to begin trials of their cases this fall.

“On behalf of all six of us, I can say that we are glad this is over,” Lewis said. “Three years of litigation has taken a huge toll on our lives and families, but we believe it was worth the struggle because the jury heard what happened and stood with us. We believed in the best ideals of Scouting – and still do – but we also want Scouting to act consistently with those ideals. Hopefully, they now will.”

Portland attorneys Kelly Clark and Paul Mones announced the settlement Wednesday morning in Portland.

Portland case has pushed Boy Scouts to better protect kids from abuse, attorneys say

By Aimee Green
The Oregonian

September 1, 2010

A settlement with six men molested by a former Portland Boy Scout leader is the latest in a series of new steps by the 100-year-old national youth organization to acknowledge its dark past and adopt safeguards to better protect boys from sexual abuse.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, prevents the men from talking about how much money each received to compensate them for abuse in the 1980s. But the amount likely reaches into the multiple millions of dollars, considering the Boy Scouts of America also will pay the state $2.25 million as part of the agreement.

Kelly Clark,  an attorney for the men, said he hoped the settlement makes the Boy Scouts safer for children, just as widespread sexual-abuse litigation against the Catholic Church made the church safer.

"That’s not primarily because the bishops got the Holy Spirit, that’s because the bishops got sued," Clark said.

Clark and attorney Paul Mones won a more than $19 million jury verdict against the Boy Scouts of America in April for failing to protect 38-year-old Kerry Lewis from Timur Dykes — an assistant Scoutmaster and convicted pedophile who had admitted to molesting 17 boys.

 

The verdict helped move along the settlement negotiations, the attorneys said. Lewis joined the others to avoid what was expected to be a lengthy appeal of the jury’s verdict in his case, believed to be the largest award in the country for a sexual abuse victim.

Lewis and the other five men were all members of the same troop and victims of Dykes. The men, now in their 30s and early 40s, claimed that Scouting executives knew they had a decades-long problem of pedophiles volunteering, yet failed to warn parents or children.

The Boy Scouts are now responding with better policies, the attorneys said.

Five weeks after the trial, the Texas-based organization made youth-protection training mandatory for all registered volunteers.

Three months after the trial, the organization’s first ever youth-protection director began work. Mike Johnson, a former child-sexual abuse investigator for the police department in Plano, Texas, is considered a "world-renowned expert," said Deron Smith,  a spokesman for the Boy Scouts.

"I’m glad the community and the jury heard us and believed us," said Lewis, who agreed to be identified in news stories during the trial and now lives in Klamath Falls. "And I’m glad other children are going to have more protection than I did. It makes it all worthwhile."

Lewis said the Scouts have never directly said they were sorry. But Smith, the Scouts spokesman, said a statement he e-mailed to media Wednesday contained an apology.

"We extend our sympathies to the victims and are pleased to have reached a settlement which will both prevent these men from reliving their experiences during a trial and allow BSA to focus even more intently on the continued enhancement of our youth protection program," the statement read.

It also stated that "youth safety is the number one priority of the Boy Scouts of America, and we are deeply saddened by the events in these cases."

Though no one will say how much the settlement is worth, the payment to the state indicates it’s high. Under Oregon law, the state gets 60 percent of all punitive-damage awards, and it had $11.1 million coming under April’s verdict. So lawyers for both sides allowed the state to negotiate a settlement.

Clark cautioned people not to speculate about the overall amount based on the state figure. "You can’t do the math, it’s not even close," Clark said.

Key to Lewis’ case were so-called red-flag files that the Boy Scouts have fought to keep out of the public eye, but that Multnomah County Circuit Judge John Wittmayer  allowed to be used during the trial. The files amounted to 20,000 pages of information collected by Boy Scout executives from 1965 to 1985 on 1,247 volunteers who were suspected of molesting boys or other inappropriate behavior.

  Lewis’ attorneys estimated that the files encompassed 6,000 to 18,000 children who had been abused over 20 years. That’s a fraction — maybe 10 to 20 percent — of the true number of victims because most sexual abuse isn’t reported, Mones said. Most victims, he said, don’t get the resolution his six clients got from the settlement.

"And that’s a tragedy," Mones said.

Clark said he has 14 other clients who are suing the Boy Scouts for sexual abuse in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho and Florida.

Aimee Green

6 Ore. men settle Boy Scout sex abuse cases

By TIM FOUGHT
Associated Press
September 1, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. — Six men who were sexually abused three decades ago by a leader of their Boy Scouts troop have settled lawsuits against the national organization dedicated to building character among youngsters.

The settlement followed a trial in which the Scouts were accused of failing to act for decades on a growing trove of documents alleging sexual abuse — known in the organization as "the perversion files."

In April, an Oregon jury awarded the first of the six victims to go to trial nearly $20 million from the century-old, congressionally chartered organization.

"I’m glad it’s over with. I’m glad the jury heard us and believed us," said Kerry Lewis, an unemployed former factory worker who now lives in Medford, Ore. "Other children in the future will have more protection than I did."

Lewis agreed during the trial to be identified in news stories. He participated by telephone with his lawyers at a news conference Wednesday.

The second trial was scheduled in October. Lawyers for the men said the settlement agreement was reached last week.

Only one of the financial details was made public, and that because it would be a matter of public record: The state of Oregon will be paid $2.25 million in punitive damages.

By law, the state gets 60 percent of punitive damage awards in Oregon. But plaintiffs’ lawyer Kelly Clark cautioned against making calculations based on the state’s allocation.

"You can’t just do the math," he said. "It’s not even close."

The other five men were prepared to go to trial, Clark said. All six were determined not to settle individually, he said, and all settled because they are "in the process of getting on with their lives and getting healed."

He refused to say whether they would have equal settlements.

The jury found the Texas-based Boy Scouts of America negligent for allowing a former assistant scoutmaster, Timur Dykes, to associate with Scouts after he admitted to a Scouts official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys.

"We extend our sympathies to the victims and are pleased to have reached a settlement which will both prevent these men from reliving their experiences during a trial and allow BSA to focus even more intently on the continued enhancement of our youth protection program," Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith said in an e-mail.

Journalists have sought the documents the jury saw, and the Oregon Supreme Court is considering whether to make them public.

The Boy Scouts have settled sex abuse lawsuits out of court before, although the exact number is not known because not all are announced.

But an expert on the subject, Patrick Boyle, has said the Scouts were sued at least 60 times in 1984-92 for alleged sex abuse, with settlements and judgments totaling more than $16 million.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said they represent more than a dozen victims in similar sex abuse cases, mainly in the West and Florida.

Given the evidence from two decades worth of Scouts documents, the number of instances of sexual abuse that go unreported and the number of victims that sexual predators typically have, the pending cases represent a sliver of what are likely tens of thousands of cases of abuse, said Paul Mones, another attorney for the six men.

"During the trial we heard from men in their 60s and 70s who were molested in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s," he said.

Paying punitive damages to the state constituted an acknowledgment of wrongdoing from the Scouts, he said. He said the jury verdict led the organization to require training in abuse issues for its volunteers and to hire a former police officer as a child protection advocate.

"Basically, hopefully, it’s a new day for the Boy Scouts now," Mones said.

Oregon Men Settle Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Boy Scouts

By Amelia Templeton
OPB

September 1, 2010 

Six men who alleged they were sexually abused by an Oregon Boy Scouts leader in the 1980s have settled their lawsuit. The men sued  the Boy Scouts of America and its local branch, the Cascade Pacific Council.

At a press conference today, attorney Kelly Clark would not say how much money each plaintiff would receive from the Boy Scouts.

Kelly Clark: “What is not confidential about the settlement is that the state of Oregon will be paid $2.2 million in punitive damages directly by the Boy Scouts. And we believe this will be the first time ever that the Boy Scouts have paid punitive damages.”

One of the six plaintiffs, Kerry Lewis, went to trial this spring. A jury found the Scouts negligent for failing to warn Lewis’ family that his scoutmaster had abused other boys.

They awarded a record $20 million in damages. But the Scouts said they planned to appeal.

The settlement ends that litigation. The Boy Scouts said in a statement they are focusing on improving their youth protection program.

Boy Scouts Settle Suit With Victims of Abuse

 

by Katharine Q. Seelye
The New York Times
September 1, 2010

The Boy Scouts of America have reached a financial settlement with six men who say they were sexually abused when they were members of the same troop in Oregon in the 1980s.

The settlement, whose terms were not disclosed, was reached last week and announced Wednesday by the plaintiff’s lawyers. It was confirmed by the national scouting organization, which is based in Irving, Texas.

“I’m so glad this is over,” Kerry Lewis, 38, one of the former scouts, said in a conference call with reporters.

Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Scouts, said the organization was “deeply saddened by the events in these cases” and extended its sympathies to the victims. He said the Scouts had taken steps to improve its youth protection program and provide a safer environment for boys.

The settlement comes after a trial in which a jury awarded Mr. Lewis $19.9 million in damages in April. His lawyers, Kelly Clark and Paul Mones, based in Portland, are representing more than a dozen other former scouts in abuse cases around the country; several others are also pending.

The six former scouts had initially joined in one lawsuit, in 2007, but the judge in the case, John A. Wittmayer, selected Mr. Lewis’s case to go to trial first. At the trial, a former assistant troop leader, Timur Dykes, admitted to molesting Mr. Lewis when Mr. Lewis, who still lives in Oregon, was about 12. After the verdict, the judge sent both sides into mediation in hopes of reaching a settlement in all six cases.

The Scouts intended to appeal Mr. Lewis’s jury award and had not yet paid it, Mr. Mones said; a payment to Mr. Lewis is part of the negotiated settlement, but his lawyers would not say whether his settlement exceeded his jury award. The Scouts were ordered to pay the State of Oregon $2.25 million in punitive damages.

The lawyers said their clients had decided to settle because their cases could have gone on for years.

Boy Scout sex abuse cases spur changes

By SCOTT K. PARKS / The Dallas Morning News
sparks@dallasnews.com
Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pedophilia has dogged the Boy Scouts for decades, and the issue shows no signs of going away. No one knows how many men have infiltrated the organization for immoral sexual purposes.

News organizations and child advocates are awaiting an Oregon court’s ruling on whether thousands of internal files documenting suspected pedophiles in Scouting should be released to the public.

The so-called "ineligible volunteer" files are kept at the Boy Scouts’ national headquarters in Irving.

Spanning two decades between 1965 and 1985, they tell unspeakable stories.

The files were entered into evidence during a civil court case pitting former Boy Scout Kerry Lewis against the Scouts’ national council and its Portland-area branch.

Lewis alleged that a Scoutmaster had sexually abused him repeatedly when he was a Scout during the 1980s – even after the Scoutmaster had been identified as a pedophile.

The case ended in April when a jury returned an $18.5 million verdict against the Scouts.

Kelly Clark, one of Lewis’ attorneys, successfully argued that the BSA had reacted defensively to allegations that it hadn’t done enough to identify and prosecute pedophiles in its ranks, preferring instead to quietly expel them.

Evidence showed that Scout leaders often did not tell parents that pedophile Scoutmasters had abused their children. The Oregon jury’s verdict sent a clear message to Scouting, Clark said.

"The short version is that you cannot put the mission of the organization above the safety of kids, no matter how divinely inspired you think it is," Clark said.

The Scouts plan to appeal the Oregon verdict, but they face similar pedophile cases around the U.S.

Virginia Starr, a spokeswoman for the Scouts, addressed the issue in e-mailed answers to questions from The Dallas Morning News. She said the organization established a Youth Protection Program in the late 1980s and has repeatedly improved it during the last 20 years.

Scout leaders are no longer allowed to meet one on one with boys. Mandatory youth-protection training for all Scoutmasters and other adult volunteers was adopted just last month. Criminal background checks for volunteers are required.

In addition, Scoutmasters and Scouts cannot sleep in the same tent unless they are father and son. Separate shower arrangements are made for adults and children on campouts.

Jim Brunner, Scoutmaster of Troop 300 in Plano, is among the many adult volunteers watching the pedophile cases as they go to court. He said the allegations are decades old and do not reflect today’s reality.

He praised chief Scout executive Bob Mazzuca and the national office for adapting to the times, even to the point of including warnings against pedophiles in the legendary Boy Scout Handbook.

"The Boy Scouts are on the cutting edge of youth protection," Brunner said. "They’ve led the way."

Pedophiles present one problem for the Scouts. The ban on gays presents another challenge. It essentially forces families to decide whether it’s ethical to belong to a group that discriminates against people based on sexual orientation.

Mazzuca said his organization’s position is essentially synonymous with the U.S. military’s "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.

"The issue only becomes an issue when a person makes it an issue," he said in an interview with The News. "Sexuality has no place in Scouting in any context."

In a two-page document titled "2009 Report to the Nation," Mazzuca makes no mention of youth protection or any of the other issues that threaten to distract Scouting from its mission.

Instead, the report is filled with facts: Scouts collaborate with 118,000 educational, faith-based and community organizations; 52,470 Scouts earned the Eagle rank in 2009; Scouts contributed more than 700,000 hours to projects beneficial to streams, lakes, oceans and other bodies of water.

Concluding his interview with The News, Mazzuca said, "We plan to be here for another hundred years."

Victim’s Attorney, Media Ask Judge to Open Boy Scouts’ Sex Abuse Files

CourthouseNewsService
By Travis Sanford

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – "Secrecy is the fertilizer of sexual abuse!" attorney Kelly Clark thundered in his opening remarks, urging Multnomah County Judge John Wittmayer to vacate a protective order on nearly 20,000 pages of evidence documenting sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America. The trial ended in May with the jury awarding Clark’s client $18.5 million in punitive damages. The documents, the so-called "perversion files," were admitted after the Boy Scouts lost a long legal battle to keep them out of court. The issue went all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court.

But Judge Wittmayer ordered that access to the files be restricted to attorneys for both sides and their employees, and the jury, during the course of the trial.

Clark wants the secrecy order vacated. He cites Article 1 Section 10, the Open Courts section of the Oregon Constitution, which states: "No court shall be secret, but justice shall be administered, openly and without purchase, completely and without delay, and every man shall have remedy by due course of law for injury done him in his person, property, or reputation."

Clark says that means that the public has the right to see the evidence upon which the jury reached its decision.

But Rob Albiset, representing the Boy Scouts, claimed that Article 1 Section 10 merely protects the right of the public to have access to court proceedings, but does not grant the public the right to see evidence that was admitted but not shown or reproduced publicly during the trial.

In the case at hand, involving the molestation of plaintiff Kerry Lewis, parts of the files were read to the jury by both sides and extractions of text were projected onto screens for the jury to read. Albiset said the public had the right only to this representation of the evidence.

But Clark said that that would mean the public had a right to review only whatever was small enough to be read aloud or projected in a comprehensible way, and that the state constitution did not intend to discriminate against evidence because it was unwieldy.

A third group, news organizations, including Courthouse News, seeking access to the records, was represented by Daniel Lindahl. He noted that Article 1 Section 10 was subtitled "Administration of Justice" and that this suggests that every activity and item that was presented or entered into evidence was covered by the Oregon Constitution. Lindahl cited case law holding that even evidence or testimony later found to have been admitted in error was a mater of public record.

All three attorneys answered Judge Wittmayer’s questions on other points of law. During one exchange Albiset said the plaintiff lacked standing to challenge Wittmayer’s order because his access to the files was not restricted, and he had been able to successfully make his case.

Albiset told the judge that he should balance the possible prejudice that public release of the documents could have on several molestation trials still on Wittmayer’s docket, involving from the same abuser.

Wittmayer responded, "Isn’t the solution to prejudicial pretrial publicity the voire dire process?"

Albiset answered that it would unnecessarily complicate the selection process because the Oregonian newspaper had a circulation of 300,000 in a potential jury pool of 700,000.

"Couldn’t that be remedied by a change of venue?" Wittmayer asked.

Albiset persisted, saying potential jurors had become sophisticated at hiding their biases in the face of pervasive media coverage.

Clark angrily suggested during his rebuttal that elimination of the jury system and open courts might serve the Scouts as a solution to any perceived prejudice.

"The Boy Scouts of America still doesn’t get it that for healing to begin, the evidence must be made public," Clark said. "Plaintiffs believe abuse thrives in secrecy and it is time to get rid of the secrecy."

On the public interest in making the files public, Lindahl said, "The public wants to judge the merits of government-sanctioned liability, especially in damages cases, and how can the public judge fairness if they can’t review the data?"

Lindahl said that constitutional mandates allow no consideration of prejudice to parties in future litigation and that no balancing of prejudice versus access is allowed. For or the public to have faith in the system, he said, the evidence on which the jury adjudicated the case must be made public.

Judge Wittmayer aid he would rule the motion as soon as possible.