A jury in Oregon ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $18.5 million to a former Scout who suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hands of his troop leader — the largest such award levied against the organization, reports The Oregonian.
Attorneys for 38-year-old Kerry Lewis said the verdict exposed the organization’s “dark history with pedophiles and its unwillingness to come to terms with the problem.” They waved “perversion files“ around the courtroom – secret files kept by the Scouts documenting claims of sexual abuse by troop leaders and volunteers over a 70 year-period.
The vast majority of sexual-abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America since the 1980s have settled quietly, and the issue largely has stayed out of the national spotlight, Lewis’s attorneys said.
Attorneys for the Boy Scouts swiftly left the courthouse, saying they were not able to comment pending appeal. On the organization’s web site, it posted a statement that said, “The Boy Scouts of America has always stood against child abuse of any kind and is always looking for ways to improve its Youth Protection strategies.”
Six other boys abused by the same Scout leader that abused Lewis have cases pending.
These “perversion files” which were so key to the trial are “an extensive archive of secret documents chronicling the sexual abuse of young boys by Boy Scout leaders over the years,” and show how the Scouts have covered up abuse for decades, said Kelly Clark, the Portland attorney who handled the case. He held up file folder after file folder in Multnomah County Circuit Court when the trial opened, saying that the files were from Boy Scout headquarters and prove the organization knew of at least 1,000 suspected child molesters between 1965 and 1985.
Client Kelly Lewis said he was molested by former assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes. Scouting leaders knew there were pedophiles in the organization, but allowed Dykes and others to continue to associate with boys anyway, Clark charged in opening statements.
The suit sought at least $14 million from the Boy Scouts of America and the Cascade Pacific Council in Oregon.
Attorneys for the two Scouting organizations said their clients weren’t at fault. In his opening statement, Boy Scouts of America attorney Charles T. Smith told jurors that child molesters are difficult to track, and that the organization kept confidential files on them in an effort to protect children. He emphasized that sexual abuse of children wasn’t a problem specific to the Scouts, but was endemic throughout society.