Sex-abuse trial to unveil Scout files
Santa Barbara, Calif. — The sexual abuse of a 13-year-old Boy Scout by an adult volunteer was part of a “sordid history of child sexual abuse” within the organization that has been documented internally by the Boy Scouts for nearly a century, the victim’s attorney said Monday in his opening statement at a civil trial.
The scout, now 20, has sued the Boy Scouts of America and a local scouting council for punitive damages after being molested by a volunteer leader in 2007.
He claims in his negligence lawsuit that the Scouts failed to educate and warn parents and volunteers about the dangers of sex abuse.
His attorney, Tim Hale, won the right to draw from more than 30 years of “perversion” files kept by the Scouts as evidence at trial to support those allegations.
The files cleared for use by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Donna D. Geck include 16 years of documents — from 1991 to 2007— that have never been seen before.
Hale told the jury when the case is over they will receive a CD of 100,000 pages of files to review while they deliberate.
“You’re going to be the first people in the United States with the opportunity to review these files,” Hale said.
Hale said in his opening remarks that the Scouts recorded between 9,000 and 10,000 such files between 1920 and 2007. He intends to use documents dating from 1971 to 2007 to build his case.
“The Boy Scouts of America has a long and sordid history of child sexual abuse committed against young Scouts . committed by Scout leaders and that timeline goes back, the files show, until at least the 1920s,” he said.
“What has not been going on is notice to the public and notice to (the plaintiff) and his parents,” the lawyer added.
Attorneys for the Boy Scouts will deliver their opening statement later in the day.
The victim’s name is being used in court but The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual abuse.
The papers could reveal how much the national organization has improved its efforts to protect children and report abuse after several high-profile cases sparked a youth protection policy in the late 1980s.
Previous large verdicts against the Scouts focused on cases where alleged abuse occurred before the policy was put in place.
In 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Scouts to make public a trove of files from 1965 to 1985. The records showed that more than one-third of abuse allegations never were reported to police and that even when authorities were told, little was done most of the time.
Those documents came to light after a jury in 2010 imposed a nearly $20 million penalty against the Scouts in a molestation case in Portland, Oregon, that dated to the early 1980s.
Since then, plaintiffs’ attorneys in several states, including Texas and Minnesota, have sought to publicize the more recent records through similar lawsuits.
The lawsuit alleges that Scouts volunteer Al Stein, who is now 37, pulled down the plaintiff’s pants when he was 13 and fondled him while the two worked in a Christmas tree lot.
Stein pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment in 2009 and was sentenced to probation. He served time in prison after authorities discovered photos of naked children on his cellphone.
He was paroled early, however, and was last living in Salinas, California, as a registered sex offender.
The Boy Scouts have said Stein’s actions were unacceptable but declined to comment on the larger issue of the “perversion” files in the case.
Under the judge’s ruling, records that Hale does not use in open court will remain sealed.
After trial, the plaintiff’s counsel and other interested parties can petition the court for the release of all the files.
That’s what happened in Oregon. The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Scouts to make all the documents public after The Associated Press and other media outlets intervened.
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