Alex Constantine - April 14, 2010
Oregon man awarded $1.4M in Boy Scouts sex case
PORTLAND, Ore. – A jury delivered an embarrassing rebuke to the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday when it found that the organization failed to protect a man who was molested by an assistant Scoutmaster in the early 1980s.
Jurors awarded $1.4 million to the former Portland man and decided that the Irving, Texas-based organization was liable for up to $25 million in punitive damages that will be decided in a separate phase of the trial.
Over the first three weeks of testimony, secret Scout "perversion files" — records of known sex offenders — were used as evidence, though it's unclear if jurors consulted the documents while deliberating over two days.
The Scouts denied allegations of negligence and said the files actually helped them keep child molesters out of their ranks.
Lawyers for Kerry Lewis, 38, the victim who filed the lawsuit, argued the Boy Scouts organization was reckless for allowing former assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes to continue to associate with the victim's Scout troop after Dykes acknowledged to a bishop for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints early in 1983 that he had molested 17 Boy Scouts.
Dykes was later convicted three times of various abuse charges involving boys and served time in prison. Shortly before trial, he acknowledged in a deposition to abusing Lewis.
The church was the charter organization for an estimated third to one half of the Boy Scout troops in the nation in the 1980s.
The Boy Scouts must pay $840,000, or 60 percent, of the $1.4 million verdict while the Cascade Pacific Council must pay 15 percent, or $210,000.
The church's $350,000 portion, or 25 percent, was considered to be part of its settlement so that money has already been paid, said church attorney Steve English.
"We settled these claims well over a year ago and were able to give the victims compensation to start their healing process," he said, adding that "the LDS church absolutely condemns any kind of child abuse."
Deron Smith, Boy Scouts national spokesman, said the organization believes the allegations against its efforts to protect young people are not valid and the Scouts will appeal.
"We are saddened by what happened to the plaintiff. The actions of the man who committed these crimes do not represent the values and ideals of the Boy Scouts of America," he said.
In court on Tuesday, Lewis tried not to react as the verdict was read but gave his mother a long hug afterward.
All lawyers in the case declined comment pending the second phase of the trial to determine whether to award $25 million in punitive damages.
Nine other similar claims are pending against the Scouts.
Kelly Clark, an attorney for Lewis, introduced the confidential files to argue that the Boy Scouts was negligent because the files were not used to protect boys from alleged sex abusers but instead were kept secret.
Although the existence of "perversion files" kept by the Boy Scouts at its national headquarters has been known for awhile, the Portland case is believed to be only the second time any of the documents have been seen by a jury.
The Boy Scouts has fought to keep those files confidential. But the Oregon Supreme Court in February approved the release of more than 1,000 files the Scouts kept on alleged pedophiles from 1965 to mid-1984 to be used in the Portland trial.
Chuck Smith, the attorney for the Boy Scouts, told the jury the files helped the Scouts keep potential pedophiles out of the organization. He also said the Scouts relied on local Scout leaders and volunteers to take action because they, not the national organization, were supervising the boys.
He and Paul Xochihua, the attorney for the Boy Scouts' Cascade Pacific Council, further argued that records were unclear about whether Dykes remained officially involved with Scouting after his admission.
The Lewis case is set to resume April 20 and involves only the national Boy Scouts, since the jury decided the Cascade Pacific Council was not liable for punitive damages and the church has settled.