$25 million – The six allege a former troop leader and church teacher abused them

Thursday, October 04, 2007

PETER ZUCKERMAN

The Oregonian Staff

Six Portland men sued the Mormon church and the Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday, seeking more than $25 million for alleged sexual abuse by a church teacher and Scout leader more than 20 years ago.

The lawsuit contends that Timur Van Dykes, 51, molested Boy Scouts in Troop 719, which was supervised by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The lawsuit includes two brothers who dropped a previous complaint. It does not name Dykes as a defendant.

Dykes, a registered sex offender who now lives in Southwest Portland, has been convicted of at least 26 sex crimes since 1983. He is one of about 50 Oregon leaders expelled by the Boy Scouts for sex abuse between 1970 and 1990 and more than 5,100 leaders expelled nationally since 1946, according to confidential Boy Scout files and summaries obtained by The Oregonian.

The number of Boy Scout leaders ejected in Oregon eclipses the number of abusive priests identified statewide in the recent Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal and presents an enormous potential legal liability for both the Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts.

Under Oregon‘s flexible statute of limitations, victims of sexual abuse can bring cases once they’ve discovered how the abuse affected them, sometimes decades after the actual crimes.

Kelly Clark, the Portland attorney who filed Wednesday’s complaint and several similar previous lawsuits, said in a statement that he intends to do more than hold the Boy Scouts and Mormon Church accountable for the suffering of his clients:

"We also intend to prove that both the Mormon Church and Boy Scouts were well aware, by at least the 1960s, that they had a serious institution-wide infestation of child abuse, stretching across the country, involving hundreds of predators and thousands of children, and that they failed miserably to take responsible steps to clean up their organizations."

The lawsuit reserves the option to seek punitive damages against both the Boy Scouts and the Mormon church. Both organizations knew pedophiles were using their organizations to access victims and failed to implement adequate child sex-abuse policies, the lawsuit says.

Officials of the Mormon Church, their Portland attorney, Steve English, and representatives of the Cascade Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts did not return phone calls Wednesday afternoon. Dykes, who left prison in 2005, declined to discuss the lawsuit. "Nothing I say will make any difference," he said.

Several recent lawsuits target pedophilia in Scouting, including church-sponsored troops. The Mormon church became a chartered partner of the Boy Scouts in 1913 and supervises troops throughout the United States.

The Mormon church considers Scout leadership a sacred calling, Clark said, giving leaders spiritual and moral authority over the boys in their troops. "It’s equivalent or identical to children abused by Catholic priests," he said.

Internal Boy Scout documents show that as of Dec. 31, 2004, two of every three traditional troops in the organization’s western region were chartered by the Mormon church. Nationwide, about a third of troops are part of the Mormon church.

Clark said abuse affected the men he represents in different ways. Some can’t stay employed or married. Some turned to drug or alcohol abuse. Others are more functional, he said. The lawsuit did not identify the men, which is common in cases of sexual abuse.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the six men allege that the Mormon church discovered in 1981 or 1982 that Dykes had molested a Scout. The lawsuit contends that after learning of abuse the organizations failed to thoroughly investigate and interrogate Dykes, failed to report abuse to law enforcement, failed to provide mental health services to victims and failed to remove Dykes from contact with children.

After the alleged 1981 or 1982 incident, which does not appear to have resulted in a criminal investigation, Clark said Dykes "continued abusing for another four or five years."

Dykes has been a source of legal troubles for the Boy Scouts before. Three lawsuits alleging abuse filed in 1987 resulted in undisclosed settlements. The mother of one of Dykes’ earliest alleged victims told The Oregonian in 1995 that abuse of her son contributed to his suicide.

The first criminal sex-abuse charges against Dykes came in 1983, when two boys told Portland police that the Scout leader molested them. Dykes pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree sexual abuse and was sentenced to probation.

In 1985, Dykes admitted abusing more Scouts. He pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and sexual penetration with a foreign object and spent time in prison before he was paroled in 1987.

In subsequent years, Dykes committed 23 more sex crimes unrelated to Scouting.

Dykes now lives in an apartment in Southwest Portland. The state sex offender registry lists him as a predator who targets infant males and boys ages 7 to 15, warning that he "has used intimidation and threats to maintain victim compliance."

Peter Zuckerman: 503-294-5919; peterzuckerman@ news.oregonian.com