An Oregon jury found the Boy Scouts of America and the local scout chapter negligent today in a landmark case that accused the iconic organization of covering up alleged sexual abuse of several of its boy scouts for years.
The Boy Scouts of America face charges of sexual abuse by scout leaders. The nine-member jury ordered the organization to pay $1.4 million in damages, and will now move into a punitive phase that could result in the Boy Scouts of America paying a penalty that could reach $25 million. That decision is not expected for weeks.
In a written statement, the Boy Scouts of America said that they are "gravely disappointed with the verdict."
"We believe that the allegations made against our youth protection efforts are not valid. We intend to appeal," read the statement.
Kelly Clark, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement, ""The verdict speaks for itself and we are looking forward to Phase II of this trial."
Clark declined to speak further until the final verdict in the case is reached.
"This is certainly a hit for the Boy Scouts of America," 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.
"Commonly, the local chapter is the only one that gets hit. This isn't unprecedented, but this is big," he said. "They lost, and $1.4 million is a decent amount of money."
Boyle said that what will determine just how big of a case this becomes will be how much the organization will be forced to pay in punitive costs and how their reputation will be tarnished by the proceedings.
"It will be interesting to see what kind of hit their image takes as people find out that they've been found negligent in handling sex abuse," said Boyle.
In the civil suit filed last month in Portland, Ore., six plaintiffs alleged 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, even after he confessed in 1983 to having abused as many as 17 scouts.
The lawsuit focused on a now 37-year-old Portland man, identified by The Associated Press as Kerry Lewis, who claimed 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 had already been convicted twice on child abuse charges, was again convicted in 1994, when he admitted the abuse and was imprisoned. He is out on parole until 2013.
Furthering the plaintiffs case against the organization was the 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.
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.
Lawsuit Alleges Boy Scouts of America Turned Blind Eye to Sex Abuse