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 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.