In Portland, Ore., the Boy Scouts of America have been found negligent for the sexual abuse a scout suffered at the hands of a troop leader in the 1980s. The jury awarded $1.4 million in non-economic damages, with punitive damages to be determined in the second phase of the trial. Nine of the 12 jurors agreed on the verdict; being a civil trial, unanimity was not required. Media stories from USA Today, the Portland Oregonian, and KATU Channel 2.
Update April 23rd: The jury, by a 9-3 vote, awarded Kerry Lewis $18.5 million in punitive damages. Fortunately, he doesn't get it all; by Oregon law, 60 percent of it goes to the state's crime victim's compensation fund.
The jury determined that found that the Boy Scouts of America were liable for 60% of the negligence for the abuse suffered in 1983 and 1984 by Kerry Lewis, who is now 38, the Oregonian reports. Timur Dykes (pictured above left), was the perpetrator of the abuse. The Cascade Pacific Council, the Scouts' local body, was deemed 15% responsible, and together they must pay Lewis $1.05 million. Lewis's suit asked for $14 million; if punitive damages are found during the second phase, they could reach as high as $25 million.
Jurors also found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had coordinated Lewis' Scout program in Southeast Portland, responsible for 25% of the abuse but will not have to pay. The church previously settled a lawsuit by Lewis for an undisclosed amount. Lewis was represented by serial litigator Kelly Clark, who has gone out of his way to pursue the LDS Church and the Roman Catholic Church in these types of cases.
The Boy Scouts announced they would appeal, saying in part, "We are gravely disappointed with the verdict. We believe that the allegations made against our youth protection efforts are not valid... We are saddened by what happened to the plaintiff. The actions of the man who committed these crimes do not represent the values and ideals of the Boy Scouts of America." Their full statement is available HERE. But confidential Boy Scout files showed that the organization knew of at least 1,000 suspected child molesters from 1965 to 1985 and tried to keep it quiet, as brought out by a former Scout leader, Larry O'Connor, who flew down from Alaska at his own expense to testify. So the outcome of an appeal would not be promising.
Here's the short story behind the suit. According to the suit, Timur Dykes had confessed in early 1983 to molesting 17 Scouts. He made that confession to a bishop who was the coordinator of the Scouting program that met at the 10th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Portland. Dykes was convicted of sexual misconduct with one boy, but the Scouting program didn't stop him from taking part in Scouting. Dykes went on to molest the plaintiff in this case, who was only identified as John Doe during the trial, but who's now revealed to be Kerry Lewis. Lewis claims he's had lifelong problems because of the abuse. A March 17th OregonLive story indicates that Dykes has been convicted of molesting boys on three separate occasions, in 1983, 1985, and 1994.
The Portland Oregonian covered this story in detail. Those interested in more background can read a host of additional stories through this designated tag.
LDS policy on abuse is laid out on the LDS website. Under the heading of "Additional Information":
Those who have been abusive in any relationship are urged to repent of their sin, to plead with the Lord for forgiveness, and to ask for forgiveness from those who have been harmed. Those who have been abusive should also speak with their bishop or branch president so he can help them through the repentance process and, if necessary, help them receive additional counseling or other assistance. Part of the repentance process may also include accepting whatever penalties are imposed by law.
Victims of abuse should seek help immediately, normally from their bishop or branch president. His first responsibility is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse.
Victims of abuse should be assured that they are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. They do not need to feel guilt. If they have been a victim of rape or other sexual abuse, whether they have been abused by an acquaintance, a stranger, or even a family member, victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sexual sin.
Victims of abuse can seek help from their priesthood leader to guide them through the process of emotional healing. Through the blessings of the gospel, victims of abuse can stop the cycle of abuse and be freed from the suffering they have experienced.