If we can't count on the Boy Scouts to protect our kids, on whom can we count?
Mark In Irvine 2012/06/17 02:50:14
Oregon Justices Approve Release of Boy Scouts’ ‘Perversion Files’
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: June 14, 2012
SEATTLE — Oregon’s highest court cleared the way on Thursday for the release of thousands of pages of documents detailing accusations and investigations of sexual abuse or other improprieties by Boy Scout leaders around the nation from the mid-1960s into the 1980s.
Peter Janci, a victims’ lawyer, moving records Thursday from the Boy Scouts of America in Portland, Ore.
The files played a central role in a civil case in 2010 over the abuse of six boys by a scout leader in Portland, Ore., in the 1980s. That trial ended with an $18.5 million punitive judgment against the Boy Scouts of America, the largest ever by far against the organization in a sex case jury trial.
The “perversion files,” which the Boy Scout organization said were kept as a way of weeding out bad leaders and preventing abuse, instead became evidence in the trial. And the state judge in the case, John A. Wittmayer, ruled that as evidence, the files should be released to the public under the open records provision of the Oregon Constitution, but with the names of possible victims and people who had reported accusations redacted. Thursday’s ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Boy Scouts of America, and said the judge had not exceeded his authority.
“Oregon’s framers sought to require the courts to conduct the business of administering justice in public — that is, in a manner that permits scrutiny of the court’s work,” the court said in its unanimous 31-page ruling.
But the court also rejected a petition by various news organizations, including The New York Times, which had sought access to everything in the exhibits that the jurors had seen. The Times’s assistant general counsel, George Freeman, said the paper would doubtless not have published victim’s names, but that, “as a point of principle, the ruling should have included a presumption of the public’s viewing everything that was in open court.”
The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement that the file system was kept confidential to encourage reporting of bad or questionable behavior by scout leaders, and that details of old cases, coming to light years after the fact, could still harm innocent victims.
“While we respect the court, we are still concerned that the release of two decades’ worth of confidential files into public view, even with the redactions indicated, may still negatively impact victims’ privacy and have a chilling effect on the reporting of abuse,” the statement said.
A lawyer for the victims in the Portland case, Paul Mones, said the documents were not likely to lead to criminal prosecutions or many civil actions because of restrictive statute of limitations laws around the country. The documents in their current form, as shown to the jury and at issue before the Supreme Court, included the names of those accused of abuse, he said.
The 2010 case initially involved six former scouts in a troop led by a scout volunteer named Timur Dykes, who was convicted in 1993 of sex crimes against young boys and is now on parole. One of the plaintiffs, Kerry Lewis, took the case to trial, and the other five settled separately after trial with the Boy Scouts of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which supervised the troop through a local church ward in Portland, settled before the trial with all the plaintiffs and was not involved in the jury judgment.
Mr. Mones said the stories and cases documented in the files, in whatever form they emerge for public inspection, would still give voice to victims who suffered anonymously. “They suffered very silently, and this is a way to recognize the real devastation that was wrought on their lives,” he said.
The Oregon sex offender registry system lists Mr. Dykes, 55, as homeless, living on the streets in Portland.
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