SEATTLE — A civil lawsuit was filed Thursday against the Boy Scouts of America, alleging the organization failed to protect youth in its care, resulting in the sexual assault of 12 boys from Washington state.
Nine local chapters are named in the suit and 12 Scout leaders are accused of sexual abuse from the 1960s until 2006.
Most of the alleged incidents took place at camps operated by the Boy Scouts.
The case, filed by Seattle attorney Tim Kosnoff, represents the largest number of alleged abusers in a single case filed against the Boy Scouts and is the largest lawsuit of its kind to be filed in Washington state against the organization.
“Think scouting is a safe place for your boy? Think again,” attorney Tim Kosnoff, said. “The Boy Scouts of America pays lip service to making necessary reforms. It remains in deep denial about the scope and severity of pedophiles in its ranks, and that places children at risk.”
“The details are tragic,” Dan Fasy, Kosnoff’s law partner, said. “This is a failure on a grand scheme that went on for too long and has affected many, many lives negatively.”
“The injuries to our clients are astronomical. What was taken from them you can’t put a price tag on,” Kosnoff said.
S.O., one of the victims represented by Kosnoff and Fasy, was 14 years old and a member of Troop 222 in Seattle, says he was sexually abused.
“He was my scout master. We walked off to a campsite called Apaloosa. He grabbed me from behind and said do you trust me? I said ‘Yes’.”
S.O. said the attacks continued for a year, but he was afraid to report it. “I was scared, I was embarrassed,” he said. “This guy was my scout master. Everybody liked him and trusted him. Then there was me – an inner-city kid. Who would believe me if I said he did this to me?”
“Any instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable,” Deron Smith, director of public relations for the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement.
“While we can’t comment on the lawsuit, we deeply regret that there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims. The BSA was one of the first youth programs to develop youth protection policies and education, and has continuously enhanced its multi-tiered policies and procedures, which now include background checks, comprehensive training programs, and safety policies, like requiring all members to report even suspicions of abuse directly to local law enforcement,” Smith said.
Other items of note in the lawsuit include:
- Only three of 13 accused pedophiles have been criminally prosecuted;
- Sexual predators “groomed” vulnerable scouts, posed as trusted advisers, took boys alone on outings outside official functions, to movies and parks and, in some instances, gave them alcohol, before assaulting them, court papers state. Abuse included molestation, forced oral sex and anal rape;
- 10 of 12 victims were abused on camp-outs. Most of the abuse took place at Boy Scout-operated camps in Western Washington, including Camp Brinkley, Camp Sevenich and Camp Omache in Snohomish and Camp Parsons in Jefferson County.
“The Boy Scout system empowers mom and dad scouting volunteers, those least qualified and least trained to screen out and monitor child molesters bent on entering scouting,” Kosnoff added. “The absurdity of this is that parents and volunteers were not — and still are not — equipped to protect kids because the Boy Scouts of America withheld from them essential information about its own extensive knowledge of the patterns of infiltration by pedophiles into scouting.”
Fasy and Kosnoff also said that despite decades of keeping internal files on accused pedophiles, the Scouts routinely failed to report abuse to police or to victims’ parents. That practice allowed sexual predators to remain at large and put other minors at risk. They also allege that between 1971 and 2009, around 6,500 pedophiles were identified in internal Scout “perversion” files. The Boy Scouts destroyed an estimated 15,000 files, making the total number of secret files created by the Boy Scouts unknown, Kosnoff said.
Local chapters named in the lawsuit include:
- Chief Seattle Council
- Mount Baker Council
- Pacific Harbors Council
- Grand Columbia Council
- Corporation of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle
- St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church
- The Dioceses of Olympia Inc.
- Fircrest United Methodist Church
- Tacoma District Conference of the United Methodist Church
- Woodland Park Presbyterian Church
Three defendants have been criminally charged and convicted in the past: Price Nick Miller, Walter Weber Sr. and Richard Barton Trujillo. Miller is in prison on four counts of child rape, Weber died after pleading guilty to child molestation and Trujillo served prison time for child rape and currently lives in Everett. The other nine men named in the lawsuit have not been charged and the statute of limitations has run out for criminal prosecution.