Boy Scouts of America Found Negligent in Landmark Sex Abuse Case

A jury found the Boy Scouts of America negligent today

April 7, 2010, 4:14 PM

April 13, 2010 — -- 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

The perversion files have yet to be made public, but details of some of the allegations made by the plaintiffs against the Boy Scouts of America are chronicled in the court documents obtained by 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.

Law enforcement also investigated the allegations, arresting and then placing Dykes on probation that prohibited him from having contact with children and requiring him to complete mental health counseling, which he never did, according to the court documents. Despite this, the court documents allege, the Boy Scouts of America never disclosed to the parents that Dykes was a "sexual danger to boys."

Problems with Dykes, now 53, persisted, according to court documents, when in 1985 he was arrested and convicted of two counts of sexual abuse of other boys. Most of them were Scouts. But according to court documents, Dykes was released in 1988 and continued to abuse boys while working with them, some of whom are current plaintiffs.

Dykes was eventually sentenced in 1994 to 18 years in prison after he was found guilty in another multi-child, molestation case. Most of them were Scouts. He was released in 2005 and lives as a registered sex offender in Oregon.

Boy Scouts of America Say They Protected Children from Abuse

Testimony on the stand revealed a glimpse into the thinking of Boy Scouts of America officials, who have said that they were trying to protect the young boys from pedophiles.Grant Robinson, a retired Boy Scouts of America executive, testified last week that the organization was aware of the issue of child abuse, according to the Associated Press.

"From the time I was hired, we were informed there was the potential of pedophiles coming into our organization," Robinson said. "We were very sensitive to the issue."

But Eugene Grant, the president of the scout chapter where Dykes was employed, has pointed fingers at the Scouts' parents, testifying that they should have known better than to allow their children to spend a night with an older man.

"His parents should have known better," Grant said, according to the AP, referring to the sleepover Dykes allegedly had with scout members at his apartment to learn more about scouting.

"I just find it almost incomprehensible to think their children were going to be safe in that type of environment," Grant said.

ABC News' Neal Karlinsky contributed to this report.

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