Idaho lawsuit alleges Boy Scouts of America and LDS Church covered up sexual misconduct
This story has been updated to include comment from Boy Scouts of America.
A lawsuit alleging that the Boy Scouts of America knew Idaho Scout leaders and volunteers were child molesters but covered up the danger, allowing it to continue, will go to trial May 6 in federal court in Boise.
The case is one of two Idaho lawsuits in which a combined 29 men have sued the Boy Scouts and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in federal court, alleging that both organizations were complicit in the cover-up.
The alleged abuse took place in Idaho in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
The attorneys bringing the lawsuits — Gilion Dumas and Ashley Vaughn, of Portland, and Andrew Chasan and Timothy Walton, of Boise — contend 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 there was a problem with child molesters in Idaho troops, but intentionally kept that secret from families and law enforcement agencies.
Of those 29 cases, 19 have settled, three are slated for trial, two have been dismissed and five are pending.
The upcoming trial is for two of the three cases and includes only the Boy Scouts as a defendant. These two cases pertain specifically to former Scout leader Lawrence Libey from Lewiston, who died in 1999 at the age of 88.
Boy Scouts of America issued the following statement late Friday:
“The abuse suffered by Lawrence Libey’s victims was horrific and we are outraged that this monstrous individual took advantage of our programs to harm innocent young boys. We apologize to his victims, and any victim of abuse during their time in Scouting. We are steadfast in our belief that one incident of child abuse is one too many. We take care of victims – we believe them, we believe in fairly compensating them and we have paid for unlimited counseling, by a provider of their choice, regardless of the amount of time that has passed since an instance of abuse. As an organization, we have taken responsibility for abuse that occurred in Scouting decades ago, and have settled numerous cases, providing fair compensation and support for victims. Throughout our history, we have also taken proactive steps to help victims heal and enacted strong youth protection policies to prevent future abuse. At no time, in our organization’s past or present, have we ever knowingly allowed a sexual predator to work with youth, and we always seek to act swiftly when alerted to abuse allegations. Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in our Scouting programs—it is our top priority.”
Court rulings set trial parameters
In preparation for the May trial, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill recently issued two orders.
On March 15, Winmill ruled that the plaintiffs could introduce the Boy Scouts’ “ineligible volunteer” files as evidence in the trial.
Ineligible volunteer files are part of a decades-old system the Boy Scouts used to track sexual misconduct and other transgressions. These individuals have been deemed ineligible to participate in Scout programs.
On April 17, Winmill ruled the plaintiffs could seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
While compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim, punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for bad conduct and to serve as a deterrent to continuing the bad conduct, Dumas explained.
In 2010, a Portland jury awarded $18.5 million in punitive damages and $1.4 million in compensatory damages for the sexual abuse a former Scout suffered as a child.