LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – A civil lawsuit was filed today in Pulaski County Circuit Court against the Boy Scouts of America for sexual abuse.
Today’s suit – filed by former scout William Stevens – alleges that the Plaintiff was sexually abused by his Scoutmaster, Samuel C. Otts, first in Webelos Pack 13 and then in Troop 16, which met at the Salvation Army in Hot Springs.
The suit alleges that Otts sexually abused the plaintiff – including on at least six occasions between approximately 1979 and 1980 when Plaintiff was approximately 10 to 12-years-old. The alleged abuse occurred during Scouting-related meetings, events, outings, and over-night excursions in and around central Arkansas.
The lawsuit alleges claims for negligence and fraud against BSA. Specifically, the suit alleges that, before the plaintiff was abused, the Boy Scouts knew about Scoutmaster Otts’ sexual abuse of other scouts. In fact, the lawsuit alleges that the Boy Scouts removed Otts from Scouting in Georgia for abusing boys, but then allowed him to register as a Scout Leader in Arkansas.
At the center of the victim’s allegations is a secret file kept by the Boy Scouts of America on Otts. The “Perversion file” on Otts – created at the Scouts national headquarters in 1977 – was kept secret at the Boy Scouts’ headquarters until it was ordered to be revealed by a Court in Oregon in 2012.
Attorneys say the secret file on Otts shows that when Otts arrived in Arkansas in 1977 after leaving Georgia, the Boy Scouts of America’s headquarters approved his registration with three separate scout troops in the Hot Springs community – all while knowing that BSA had determined Otts should be “ineligible” to work with boys due to the sexual danger he posed to boys.
Upon his arrival in Arkansas, the suit alleges that the Scouts held Otts out to families of Scouts as a safe and trustworthy Scout Leader. According to the lawsuit, Otts manipulated that trust and used the Scouting program to isolate and abuse scouts in Arkansas. The suit also alleges that the Boy Scouts took intentional actions to misrepresent the safety of their program and to hide information about the problem of sexual abuse in Scouting.
“When the Scouts caught this pedophile scout leader in Georgia, they did not call the police. Instead, similar to the Catholic Church transferring pedophile priests from one parish to another, the Scouts allowed this Scoutmaster to transfer. And not only did they allow Otts to transfer and work with more kids after the Scouts knew about his crimes, they did nothing to warn the parents and scouts in his new Arkansas troop about the danger he posed,” said Peter Janci, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff.
Attorneys say the situation involving Otts is one example of what they call a historical problem of tens of thousands of adult Scout Leaders sexually abusing children.
According to a news release from attorneys, the Boy Scouts of America began keeping secret files on pedophiles (called the “Perversion Files” or “Ineligible Volunteer Files”) soon after the organization formed in 1910. By January of 1935, BSA had accumulated approximately 1,000 pedophile files. In the decades between 1920 and 1980 (the time of the plaintiff’s abuse), BSA continued to receive thousands of reports to their national office that Scout Leaders were using their positions of trust to groom and sexually abuse boys in connection with Scout trips, events and activities. During much of this period, the Scouts were receiving at least one or two reports each week about sexual abuse by Scout Leaders.
Attorneys say from these thousands of prior reports, BSA knew the ways in which Scoutmasters used their positions to sexually exploit scouts. BSA knew that those who abused scouts often had multiple victims and that abusive Scout Leaders who were caught and removed often tried over and over again to get back into Scouting (including with different troops and in different areas of the country).
“BSA had seen thousands of similar incidents play out. They knew this man had previously sexually abused boys in Georgia and they consciously chose to allow him to take groups of Arkansas boys alone, into the woods. They had to have known this would happen,” said Josh Gillispie, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff.
Attorney’s say those secret files were maintained under lock and key at the Boy Scouts of America headquarters. Over the decades, more than ten thousand similar files were created by the Boy Scouts. However, Boy Scout officials have admitted in sworn testimony that the organization destroyed thousands of its files over the years.
In many instances, according to testimony from Boy Scouts executives, the Boy Scouts of America did not report the allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement. Attorneys at Crew Janci were part of the legal team that won the first major release of a large portion of the Boy Scouts’ secret files on pedophile Scout Leaders (those existing files that were created between 1965-1985). The files are publicly available on the Crew Janci LLP website. Today’s lawsuit is believed to be the first lawsuit for sexual abuse filed against BSA in Arkansas since the secret ‘Perversion’ files were released in 2012.
“The Boy Scouts would like the public to believe that the Perversion Files system was designed solely to protect boys in Scouting. But a review of those files reveals a century-long record of secrecy and a lax response to its pedophile problem. The documents show that BSA has historically put its reputation ahead of the safety of children,” said Peter Janci, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff.
Attorneys say that although some of the suspected pedophiles reported to the Boy Scouts of America were excluded from volunteering, some Scout Leaders accused of child sexual abuse were still allowed to continue as Scout Leaders under a secret internal BSA policy called “probation.” Parents and Scouts were not notified of the existence of the probation program.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Times and attorneys from Crew Janci LLP published online databases that together make available approximately 5,000 of the Perversion Files that were publicly released through child sexual abuse lawsuits against the BSA.
Today’s lawsuit alleges that, as a result of BSA’s negligence and fraud and the resulting abuse, the Plaintiff has suffered “severe and permanent emotional distress and mental anguish, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation, shame, and psychological injuries.”
The lawsuit goes on to allege that the Plaintiff “has incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling; and, on information and belief, has incurred and will continue to incur loss of income and/or loss of earning capacity.”
“This isn’t over for our client; it still haunts him today and the emotional scars will be with him throughout his life,” said Josh Gillispie, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff.
The Los Angeles Times database lists 14 separate Arkansas Perversion Files created by the Scouts between 1991 and 2003 that BSA has refused to make public.
“Even today, the Boy Scouts policy is to keep these ‘Perversion files about child sexual abuse by Scoutmasters a secret — locked away in their headquarters. Those files contain information about individuals who are still in Arkansas; some are probably still involved with children. Parents deserve that information, so they can take steps to protect their children – but the Boy Scouts refuse to disclose that information,” said Peter Janci, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff.
The Plaintiff in today’s lawsuit only recently learned about BSA’s role in causing his abuse — and their subsequent decades of keeping the information hidden.
“Our client never imagined that BSA knew about his perpetrator’s prior abuse of boys and knowingly and secretly chose to allow him to have access to boys in Arkansas as a Scoutmaster in three different scout troops,” said Josh Gillispie, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff.
Attorneys for the plaintiff acknowledged that defendants often argue that claims from decades ago are barred by the statute of limitations. However, attorneys for the victim in today’s case say they are confident that this claim is timely because of the Boy Scouts’ alleged intentional actions to hide the truth.
“We are confident that Arkansas law allows this claim to be brought. We have alleged fraud – that the Boy Scouts allowed this abuse to happen and then intentionally kept all of the evidence about their misconduct hidden away for decades in secret files kept under lock and key in their headquarters. The law in Arkansas in this types of situations is simple: you can’t run out the clock by hiding your misconduct. If you hide the evidence that you did something wrong, the time for the victim to take action is paused until they learn about it,” said Josh Gillispie, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff. “We fully anticipate the Court in this case to reject any timeliness arguments in this case in light of the Boy Scouts’ intentional acts to conceal their misconduct.”
“Our client only discovered the Boy Scouts’ misconduct and fraud after we forced the Scouts through litigation to reveal a large portion of their secret files. Only when our client learned about these files and happened to check on them was he finally able to discover that the Boy Scouts allowed this Scoutmaster to abuse him,” said Peter Janci, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiff.
The plaintiff in today’s lawsuit is represented by Josh Gillispie of Green & Gillispie, Attorneys at Law. Based in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Green & Gillispie is an established advocate for victims of sexual abuse in Arkansas. Over the years Josh Gillispie has devoted a great deal of his practice to litigating on behalf of sexual abuse victims against their abusers and also against organizations and corporations who enable these abusers.
Also representing the plaintiff in today’s lawsuit are attorneys Peter Janci and Stephen Crew of Crew Janci LLP. Based in Portland, Oregon, Crew Janci law firm is well-known for their litigation on behalf of victims of sexual abuse around the country, including cases against the Boy Scouts of America.
Attorneys at Crew Janci LLP have represented nearly 100 victims of sexual abuse in cases against the Boy Scouts of America around the country (with the assistance of local attorneys), including in: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington. In Oregon, the Crew Janci firm has represented dozens of victims of sexual abuse in Scouting. Attorneys from Crew Janci were also part of the Plaintiff’s trial team in the 2010 case of Kerry Lewis v. Boy Scouts of America, which resulted in a $19.9 million verdict for the victim.
Click here to read the filed complaint document.
Anyone with information about Scoutmaster Otts or abuse in Scouting in Arkansas is asked to contact the victim’s attorneys at 1-888-407-0224.
We have reached out to the Boy Scouts of America Quapaw Area Council in Little Rock for a comment, and we are still waiting for a response.