Idaho News

Nearly 20 settlements reached in lawsuits against Boy Scouts, Mormon church over sex abuse

In two Idaho lawsuits, a combined 29 men have sued the Boy Scouts and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in civil court, alleging that both organizations knew Scout leaders and volunteers were child molesters but covered up the danger, allowing it to continue.

Of those 29 cases, 19 have settled, three are slated for trial, two have been dismissed and five are pending, according to Gilion Dumas, a Portland attorney representing the victims.

Victims’ names, terms of the settlements and other details are confidential, Dumas said.

The attorneys bringing the two lawsuits — Dumas and Ashley Vaughn, of Portland, and Andrew Chasan and Timothy Walton, of Boise — 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.

The alleged abuse took place in Idaho in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

“In Idaho alone, at least seven Scout leaders were accused of molesting Scouts or other youth between 1962 and 1977. Between 1978 and 1983, at least three additional Idaho Scout leaders were accused of molesting Scouts or other youth,” states the complaint. “In addition to knowing about the decades of sexual abuse by Scout leaders in Scouts prior to or during Plaintiffs’ abuse, Defendant BSA became aware of all or most of the accusations regarding these specific Scout leaders by 1982.”

Several of the men’s alleged abusers — Larren Arnold , Doug Bowen, Dennis Empey, Lawrence Libey and James Schmidt — were later convicted of lewd conduct — sometimes related to Scouting cases, other times not.

Four victims settled their cases last week, Dumas said, but those payments could end up in limbo.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that the Boy Scouts, a national nonprofit organization, is considering seeking bankruptcy protection while it deals with escalating legal costs stemming from numerous lawsuits filed across the country over how it handled allegations of sexual abuse by employees and volunteers, some dating as far back as the 1960s.

“From what we understand the only way these [four new] settlements will work is if the Boy Scouts do not file for bankruptcy for at least 90 days,” Dumas said. “If they file within 90 days, these settlements may be at risk. We really do not know what will happen.”

The Boy Scouts’ potential bankruptcy is an administrative issue and not a financial one, Dumas said.

“They have more than $1 billion in assets and an estimated at least $100 million in insurance money available,” Dumas explained. Bankruptcy would be “a tool to put the assets all in one place, figure out who has claims and an organized way to compensate the victims.”

If the Boy Scouts file bankruptcy, “existing lawsuits would be stayed and moved into the bankruptcy proceeding and have to be resolved as part of the bankruptcy.”

“The threat of bankruptcy definitely changes the landscape for these plaintiffs, but also may give other people who were abused an opportunity to come forward,” Dumas said. “Because it could mean that the Boy Scouts have to resolve every potential claim against them in one place. We see it as a mixed blessing.”

When news of the most recent Idaho lawsuit broke in May 2017, 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.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would not comment.

Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.