The Boy Scouts of America’s failure to share information about known child molesters allowed the sexual abuse of at least 12 Seattle-area boys over three decades, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court.
One of the nation’s largest youth organizations failed to protect children in its care by deliberately and negligently withholding information from its local chapters about known and suspected child abusers, the civil suit alleges.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Tim Kosnoff, said the national Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for decades maintained documents with the names and deeds of known and suspected child molesters involved in scouting.
The information contained in those documents, called the “perversion” files by the BSA itself, was never shared with local Boy Scout sponsors, councils or leaders, according to the suit. Neither was it reported to police or shared with the parents of Scouts, the suit says.
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Some of those secret documents, including ones containing the names of 6,500 child molesters, have been made public in recent years, but an additional 15,000 documents were destroyed, Kosnoff said.
Kosnoff said BSA’s failure to act when it first learned of the abuses and its refusal to acknowledge or take responsibility for the problem now means the organization remains a “magnet” for pedophiles and a “petri dish” for abuse.
“If they can’t run their organization so it’s not porous to offenders … it is not a safe place to trust your sons,” he said at a news conference on Thursday morning in Seattle.
A spokesman for the national BSA emailed a statement Thursday saying the organization could not comment on the lawsuit. However, BSA spokesman Deron Smith wrote that the organization “deeply” regrets the abuse of Scouts and believes any “instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable.”
Smith said BSA was one of the first youth programs to develop youth-protection policies and procedures that include background checks of troop leaders and volunteers.
Kosnoff said BSA has sought to shield itself from legal responsibility for the abuses by claiming it has no responsibility for the actions of its local councils. However, Kosnoff said, that is patently untrue. The national organization exerts an ultimate and exacting control over all its local chapters, including issuing nationwide decrees on what kind of Scout leaders can be hired, he said.
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of 12 victims, names as respondents the national BSA, several local Boy Scout councils, the churches that sponsored the local troops, paid leaders and unpaid volunteers, including 13 men who are alleged to have abused boys or to have known of abuse they did not report.
According to the lawsuit, the victims were between ages 11 to 17 when they were raped and molested, sometimes over a period of time and sometimes by more than one Scout leader.
Many of the abuses outlined in the lawsuit occurred while the boys were either on hiking and camping trips or at Boy Scout-operated camps in Snohomish and Jefferson counties between 1960 and 2006.
The youngest plaintiff is now 18, according to the suit.
Kosnoff and his law partner, Dan Fasy, are currently representing more than 100 boys and men nationwide who are suing the Boy Scouts for injuries stemming from sexual abuse.
The suit filed on Thursday,
the largest of its kind filed in Washington to date, seeks unspecified damages.
But, Kosnoff said, “the injuries to our clients are astronomical. You cannot put a price on what was taken from them.”
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983.