Judge orders Scouts to release more recent files alleging abuse
With its appeals exhausted, the Boy Scouts of America must hand over two decades of confidential files on alleged sexual abuse to attorneys in a civil lawsuit, a Santa Barbara judge ruled Wednesday.
Superior Court Judge Donna Geck’s order follows the state Supreme Court’s rejection earlier this month of the Scouts’ petition to bar release of the files, which date back to 1991 and detail thousands of incidents of alleged abuse by troop leaders and others.
Early last year, Geck ordered the records turned over to lawyers for a former Scout who was 13 when, in 2007, he was molested by a volunteer troop leader. The boy’s lawsuit contends that the files will expose a "culture of hidden sexual abuse," as well as the organization's failure to warn Scouts and their parents about it.
It also alleges that a local Scout official tried to dissuade the boy’s mother from reporting the crime to police, citing that as an example of the group’s efforts to conceal abuse. The volunteer leader later was convicted of felony child endangerment.
The Boy Scouts of America denies the lawsuit’s allegations and contends that the records must remain confidential to protect the privacy of victims, those who report abuse and those wrongly accused.
Known in Scouting as the "perversion files," the records have been kept for nearly a century as a blacklist to keep molesters out of the ranks. In October, more than 1,200 files from 1965 to 1985 were made public by order of the Oregon Supreme Court.
The Times has published a searchable database of files from 1960 to 1991, along with summary information on others as recent as 2005.
Timothy Hale, a plaintiff’s attorney in the Santa Barbara lawsuit, said the files to be turned over are more voluminous than he expected. They detail "a little more than 4,000" cases of alleged abuse and number about 120,000 pages, Hale said, adding that he expects to receive them in the next week or so.
The files would not be made public unless they are later admitted as evidence in the lawsuit. A trial has not been scheduled and is at least months away.
A spokesman for the Boy Scouts said earlier this month that the group would comply with court orders on the files’ release, while continuing to maintain that they are not relevant to the lawsuit’s claims.
-- Kim Christensen