AP

Unique sex-abuse suit filed against Boy Scouts in US capital

Jan 7, 2020, 8:28 AM
FILE - In this July 22, 2013, file photo, a youth looks over the Norman Rockwell exhibition in Salt...
FILE - In this July 22, 2013, file photo, a youth looks over the Norman Rockwell exhibition in Salt Lake City, featuring his Boy Scout-themed paintings. A team of lawyers filed a lawsuit Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to establish the nation’s capital as a venue for men across the U.S. to sue the Boy Scouts of America for allegedly failing to protect them from long-ago sexual abuse at the hands of scoutmasters and other leaders. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

A team of lawyers filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to establish the nation’s capital as a venue for men across the U.S. to sue the Boy Scouts of America for allegedly failing to protect them from long-ago sexual abuse at the hands of scoutmasters and other leaders.

The eight plaintiffs in the potentially ground-breaking lawsuit, identified as John Does 1 through 8, live in states where statute of limitations laws would prevent them from suing the BSA based on claims of sex abuse that occurred decades ago.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers contend that federal court in Washington is an appropriate venue for such a lawsuit because the Boy Scouts were incorporated there in 1910 and obtained a congressional charter in 1916. Along with several states — including New York, New Jersey and California — the District of Columbia eased its statute of limitations in 2019 to accommodate claims like those in the new lawsuit.

The Boy Scouts, in an email to The Associated Press, said it cannot comment on pending litigation. It reiterated its previous apologies to “anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.”

“We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice and we encourage them to come forward,” the BSA said.

The lawyers handling the new lawsuit,  from the Washington firm of Zuckerman Spaeder, are affiliated with Abused in Scouting, a nationwide legal team that is signing up hundreds of clients across the U.S. who seek to file sex-abuse claims against the BSA.

The lawsuit contends that the BSA has known since its early years that it attracted pedophiles into its ranks of adult leaders, yet avoided public acknowledgement of the dangers for decades even as it kept secret files of men known or suspected of committing sex abuse.

The lawsuit notes that the BSA submits an annual report to Congress summarizing its recent activities.

“However, never once in 103 years of reporting to Congress has BSA disclosed the fact that its programs were, and are, magnets to tens of thousands of pedophiles,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, BSA’s Reports to the Nation have miscast the organization as a bastion of moral authority.”

The lawsuit’s premise that the Washington, D.C. federal court has jurisdiction because of the BSA’s congressional charter has not been tested and will likely be challenged, but Aitan Goelman, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, says it’s worth a try.

“We’re intentionally trying to make this a venue for a national case against the Boy Scouts,” he said. “We’re doing it conscious of the fact that it’s unusual and we explain why we believe it’s legally sound.”

A key element, he said, is the inconsistency of statute of limitations laws in the states.

“If you were raped in California, as opposed to Texas, you have a potential avenue for some measure of justice – but it shouldn’t depend on the vagaries of geography,” Goelman said. “The Boy Scouts are a national organization. It cannot be, just based on luck of the draw, that some of these men are completely shut out of the courts and some are not.”

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs live in eight different states — Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

The plaintiff from Hawaii, although identified in the lawsuit as a John Doe, chose to speak on the record with The Associated Press. He is Dave Henson, a 39-year-old Navy officer who says he was abused by an assistant scout leader in Lake Dallas, Texas, starting in 1991 when he was 11 and continuing for five years.

Henson said that after years of enduring anxiety, shame and depression, he felt relieved to be part of litigation that could benefit abuse victims across the U.S.

“The abuse occurs once you’re isolated from the rest of the group, and you stay in that isolation for years,” he said.

Without specifying any dollar figures, the lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for physical and emotional injuries, as well as punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

The BSA has been entangled for years in costly litigation with men accusing Scout leaders of abusing them as children. Hundreds of new lawsuits now loom after several states enacted laws making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to seek damages.

The organization, headquartered in Irving, Texas, says it’s exploring “all options available” to maintain its programs and pay fair compensation to victims who were abused as scouts. The BSA has not ruled out the possibility of filing for bankruptcy.

Last month, the Scouts confirmed it has designated its national properties, including the vast  Philmont Scout Ranch  in New Mexico, as collateral to help meet financial needs, including rising insurance costs related to sex abuse litigation.

There’s also another new blow: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — for decades the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops — is pulling more than 400,000 young people out of the BSA and moving them into a new global program of its own. The move is expected to reduce the BSA’s youth membership from about 2.2 million to roughly 1.8 million — the first time since the World War II era that the figure will fall below 2 million. At the group’s peak in the 1970s, more than 4 million boys were Scouts.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
11 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...
SETH BORENSTEIN and CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
17 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
19 days ago
President Joe Biden pictured...
ZEKE MILLER AP White House Correspondent

DOJ reviewing potentially classified docs at Biden center

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered at the offices of the Penn Biden Center.
20 days ago
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: A poster advertising the launch of Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" is s...
Jill Lawless Associated Press

Prince Harry says explosive book is a bid to ‘own my story’

Prince Harry defended his decision to publish a memoir that lays bare rifts inside Britain’s royal family.
20 days ago
utah capitol, a new bill heading to lawmakers will affect the utah sex offender registry...
HANNAH SCHOENBAUM Associated Press/Report for America

States target transgender health care in first bills of 2023

After a record flow of anti-transgender legislation last year, Republican state lawmakers this year are zeroing in on questions of bodily autonomy.
22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Unique sex-abuse suit filed against Boy Scouts in US capital