Idaho lawsuit alleges Boy Scouts of America and LDS Church covered up sexual misconduct
For the second time in his life, Riley Gilroy is turning to the courts to right a wrong.
The first time was when he was 9 years old and his mother, a single parent in Caldwell, thought he needed a male role model.
She asked around for recommended youth programs. Caldwell’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 4th Ward recommended the Boy Scouts — Scouting has been a sanctioned LDS program for nearly 100 years, and the church is Idaho’s largest sponsor of it.
Gilroy and his best friend joined the ward’s Cub Scout den in 1982.
“That’s where I met Jim Schmidt who, over a period of time, proceeded to molest me and other Cub Scouts,” Gilroy said.
For Gilroy and more than two dozen men growing up in Idaho in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, the world of Boy Scout merit badges, camping trips and weekly meetings with friends dissolved into sexual and emotional abuse, confusion and secrets.
Many of the accused Scout leaders were later convicted of lewd conduct for these or similar incidents. Their victims, now middle-aged, have sued the Boy Scouts and LDS church in civil court for fraud — alleging both organizations knew of the child molesters but covered up the danger, allowing it to continue.
The most recent lawsuit was filed May 1 by Gilroy and four other men. Three chose to remain anonymous and are only identified in the lawsuit as John Does XX through XXII.
Court documents lay out the victims’ accusations. Two were willing to tell the Statesman their stories in their own words.
A case twice fought
Schmidt, a volunteer with the Ore-Ida Council of Boy Scouts, had been sexually, physically and emotionally abusing Gilroy for more than a year.
One day, Gilroy walked into his 5th-grade class.
“Somebody was talking about a camping trip that weekend with Jim Schmidt and the Scouts and said, ‘I do not like that man. He tried to do some stuff in your sleeping bag,’” Gilroy said. “That quote stuck with me my whole life because when I heard that, that is when the bells went off. That’s when I realized what he was doing was not right.”
Gilroy told his mother what had been happening and the family went to the police. Schmidt, who was 38 and lived in Nampa, was arrested in February 1983 on two felony charges of lewd conduct with a minor.
Police interviewed 16 Scouts and their parents and documented an undisclosed number of cases in which Schmidt engaged in sex acts with juveniles, said Lansing Haynes, a Canyon County deputy prosecutor, in a 1983 Statesman report. Several incidents took place during Boy Scout outings, others happened at Schmidt’s home.
Haynes said a competency evaluation by state Health and Welfare officials found Schmidt had “acute pedophilia.”
Schmidt pleaded guilty to one charge and the other was dropped. In July 1983, a judge gave him a suspended sentence and sent him for a three-week evaluation at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.
Schmidt, now 72, remained in Maryland, where in 1996 he was again convicted of sexually molesting a boy. This time he had to register as a sex offender. The Statesman reached him by phone to ask about working with the Boy Scouts in Idaho: “I cannot talk about anything like that,” he said.
Gilroy, 44, now lives in Massachusetts. Earlier this year, he found out the Boy Scouts had an “ineligible volunteer” file on Schmidt, part of a decades-old file system that tracks sexual misconduct and other transgressions.
The Boy Scouts’ paperwork on Schmidt’s problems started in 1979 — three years before Schmidt started sexually abusing Gilroy.
The first entries are two handwritten statements from two Boy Scouts given to Ore-Ida Council Executive Rex J. Black in June 1979. An example: “The summer of 1977, when I was twelve at Boy Scout camp … we slept in Jim Schmidt’s tent. … Jim Schmidt tried to get his hands down my pants. I knocked his hand away and rolled over. I was scared because of this and because he said there was something out there. He said it was a wolverine but I knew there were no wolverines around that area.”
Black died in 1999, so Schmidt’s file is the main source of information on how the council executive reacted to such reports. Black took the 1979 complaints to Schmidt, who said he was innocent. Black then instructed Schmidt to have an adult present when he doing Scouting activities.
In 1981, a member of the LDS Nampa Stake Presidency called Black to say Schmidt was involved in “homosexual activities” involving youth. Black told the Ore-Ida Council president, who gave Black a letter for Schmidt stating his registration with the Boy Scouts had been suspended.
Black also sent a letter to the national office in Texas recounting what he had been told: “Jim (Schmidt) has some mental and physical problems and has been in the State Hospital quite a while; therefore, no ‘church court’ was held concerning excommunication from the LDS Church, but he was asked to cease Scouting activities in the Ward and Stake.”
The national office asked Black to complete a “confidential record sheet” on Schmidt “as soon as possible, so we can identify this man in the future.” Four months later, the national office wrote Black stating it had not received the confidential record sheet on Schmidt and to please send it as soon as possible.
In early 1982, the same year Gilroy joined Cub Scouts, Black responded: “After careful study, I do not feel that Jim Schmidt should be put on the confidential file. There is probably no chance he that he will leave this council, and I’ll watch for any wrongdoing here.”
One year later came Schmidt’s arrest.
Within days, Black sent the national office that long overdue confidential record sheet on Schmidt. Black also said “there is some question” as to if he actually gave Schmidt the May 1981 letter suspending his Boy Scout registration.
Schmidt’s confidential file was among more than 5,000 later released through lawsuits across the country alleging the Boy Scouts covered up sexual assaults.
“I felt betrayed. I felt let down. I felt disgusted,” said Gilroy after he found out about and read Schmidt’s file.
“... This goes way beyond Jim Schmidt and one Cub Scout. It is not just one Scout leader, but multiple Scout leaders and the church.
“That is why I am coming forward now. That is my motivation. To right a wrong.”
Since he was a young child, John Doe XX, as he is referred to in the lawsuit, knew he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who flew B-17 bombers in World War II.
“I was going to be an Air Force pilot and an astronaut,” he told the Statesman.
He started a rocket club at his school, Warner Elementary in Lewiston. He earned his space exploration merit badge in the Boy Scouts.
Those dreams were dashed when he was 11 years old and crossed paths with Troop 156 Scoutmaster Lawrence Libey.
The leader of a troop sponsored by the Lewiston Elks Lodge, not the LDS church, Libey is not among the released Boy Scout files and it’s unclear if the organization documented any wrongdoing by him. But years later, in 1987, Lewiston police charged him with four felonies in an unrelated case: sexual abuse of a child under 16, lewd conduct with a child under 16 and two counts of crime against nature. He pleaded guilty to lewd conduct and served in prison from 1988 to 1992.
Doe XX, now 57 and living in Hawaii, still has difficulty talking about what happened to him for two years in the early 1970s. The lawsuit claims Libey abused him “dozens of times” at Libey’s home and on camping trips.
“I was young and innocent and I did not know the ways of the world. I was manipulated from a person represented to me as a leader and someone who I could trust and someone who was supposed to be guiding me. So this false leader, this false person that I was told to trust, was manipulating me and guiding me and pressuring me,” said Doe XX.
“After two years, my mother starts figuring out what is going on, that something is not right and she confronts me about it. I am afraid to say anything because Libey is threatening me with a gun or to kill me or whatever. So, she sent me to live with my dad in Boise and that is what got me out of it.”
But the damage had been done.
“What happened just took all my self-confidence and sense of being, of who I am, away. I am still a pilot,” said Doe XX, who flies for an Hawaiian airline. “I am still following my dream, but I do not think I even came close to what my potential could have been, would have been, if I would have had a normal healthy life.”
Libey died in 1999 at age 88.
After years of counseling, classes and seminars, Doe XX said he has put what happened to him “behind a closed door.”
“This is why I am coming forward today,” he said. “Now that I am older and wiser and I have more strength, I am coming forward and asking other men, and women, to come forward.
“I want to give other people who are now my age, in their 40s, 50s, 60s, the courage to come out and to let them know that these things happened, especially with Lawrence Libey because he cut a wide swath across Northern Idaho. I know there are lots of other men out there that he affected, that he manipulated. I want to give them the courage to come up because there is strength in numbers.”
More about this lawsuit
The attorneys bringing the May 1 lawsuit — Gilion Dumas and Ashley Vaughn of Portland, Ore., and Andrew Chasan and Timothy Walton of Boise — also represent several other men in a pending 2013 lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and the LDS church over sexual abuse. As in the earlier lawsuit, the attorneys contend that the Boy Scouts kept files on Scoutmasters accused of sexual misconduct, but didn’t reveal that information to parents, volunteers or others. The attorneys also contend that church officials knew that there was a problem with child molesters in Idaho troops, but intentionally kept that secret from families and law enforcement agencies.
Each of the men’s alleged abusers — Doug Bowen, Lawrence Libey and James Schmidt — were later convicted of lewd conduct, sometimes related to Scouting cases, other times not.
When news of the lawsuit broke last week, the Boy Scouts of America called the alleged behavior abhorrent and said in a written statement that the organization has strengthened its efforts to protect youth.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members. The BSA is outraged there have been times when Scouts were abused and we sincerely apologize to victims and their families,” the statement read.
LDS church spokesman Eric Hawkins said the church was taking time to better understand the lawsuit and how to respond.