Closing arguments begin today in a trial that could be a landmark case against the Boy Scouts of America, which is accused of covering up alleged sexual abuse of several of its Boy Scouts for years.
In a civil suit filed last month in Portland, Ore., six plaintiffs allege that the Boy Scouts of America allowed convicted child sex-offender Timur Dykes to continue to participate and lead troop activities, including sleepovers at his home with the scouts, despite complaints from parents.
The $29 million lawsuit focuses on a now 37-year-old Portland man, unnamed in the filings, who claims he was abused as a boy by Dykes while the Boy Scouts of America and the Cascade Pacific Council in Oregon, his specific Scout branch, did nothing. Dykes, who admitted the abuse, was convicted, imprisoned and is out on parole until 2013.
Furthering the plaintiffs case against the organization is admission into the trial of more than a 1,000 pages of so-called perversion files, which are confidential documents kept by the Boy Scouts of America regarding people who have been kicked out of scouting for a variety of reasons, including sex the abuse of scouts.
"If the plaintiffs win this case, it would be the first major victory for a plaintiff in a Scout trial in decades," said Patrick Boyle, the author of "Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution" and a researcher of scout abuse for more than 20 years.
The perversion files have only been used once before in a trial against the organization, and in that instance the jury ruled against the Boy Scouts of America, which had to pay damages, Boyle said.
"The Boy Scouts of America haven't lost a big suit in a long time, they have been fairly successful in keeping the national corporation insulated from blame," said Boyle, who is also the current editor of Youth Today. "But these perversion files are an ugly thing and are the skeleton in their closet."
Dawn Krantz-Watts, an expert in sex-abuse litigation for almost 20 years, said that she too believes the case has the potential to become one of the "biggest cases of its kind.'
"If the Boy Scouts of America are held accountable because of the sex abuse this young man says he had to endure as a child, that's just huge," she said. "It won't bring down the Boy Scouts, but it will cause them to take a look at their practices that they've held and change."
From 1979 to 1985, according to the documents, Dykes "used the trust and faith placed in him by Scouts" and "severely abused, fondled or sodomized" the six plaintiffs.
They allege that Dykes, after a complaint by a young boy's mother and his own admission of abusing "several boys," including some of the plaintiffs in the suit, was removed from his post as Scoutmaster but was still allowed to volunteer at and attend Scout meetings.