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Family sues Boy Scouts in sexual abuse case

February 20, 2012 |  8:18 am

The Boy Scouts of America is being sued by the family of a Santa Barbara County boy sexually abused in 2007 by a troop leader in a case with widespread ramifications.

The lawsuit contends the Scouts knew or should have known the leader put the boy at risk and cites a Scout executive's reluctance to call police as evidence of an effort to conceal widespread sexual abuse.

"He said that wasn't necessary, because the Scouts do their own internal investigation," said the boy's mother, whose name The Times is withholding to protect her son's identity. "I thought that was really weird. ... I thought it was really important to call the sheriff right away."

So she did, triggering an investigation of volunteer Scout leader Al Steven Stein, then 29, who was charged with abusing her son and two other boys. In 2009, he pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment.

He was put on probation but later went to prison after authorities found pictures of nude children on his cellphone data card. Stein's criminal case is closed. But its fallout is far from over for the boy, who is now 17 and, according to his mother, so traumatized by the ordeal that he seldom leaves the house.

In addition to unspecified damages, the lawsuit seeks an order compelling the Scouts to hand over thousands of confidential files detailing allegations of sexual abuse by Scout leaders and others around the nation.

It contends the files will expose the Scouts' "culture of hidden sexual abuse" and a failure to warn boys, their parents and others about the "pedophilic wolves" who the suit says have long infiltrated one of America's oldest youth organizations.

In January, after reviewing some of the files, a Santa Barbara Superior Court judge rejected the Scouts' argument that the documents are irrelevant to the lawsuit and ordered the organization to turn over the most recent 20 years' worth of records to the boy's lawyers by Feb. 24, with victims' names removed.

The judge ordered the lawyers not to disclose the files publicly. Known as "ineligible volunteer files," the documents have been maintained since the 1920s and are intended to keep suspected molesters and others accused of misconduct out of Scouting.

Scouts officials have steadfastly resisted releasing them and won't discuss their contents, citing the privacy rights of victims and the fact that many files are based on unproven allegations. They strenuously dispute that the files have been used to conceal sexual abuse.


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