A $29 million civil suit against the Boy Scouts of America has entered its fourth week of trial at Multnomah County Circuit Court in Oregon, and there is an Alaskan connection. Full story published by OregonLive.com and a separate report by KATU Channel 2.
Update April 13th: Jury finds Boy Scouts negligent, awarded $1.4 million in non-economic damages, with punitive damages to be determined in the second phase of the trial. 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 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. 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.
Larry O'Connor of Central, Alaska (pictured above left) worked for the Boy Scouts during the 1960s and still volunteers in his hometown in Alaska. He was surfing the Internet last week when he read about the lawsuit alleging that the Scouts failed to keep pedophile volunteers away from Scouts in the early 1980s, even though the organization knew it had a long-standing, national problem. So he flew down to Portland and booked a hotel room at his own expense to offer to give testimony about what he also sees as a cover-up by the Boy Scouts of past practices.
On Tuesday April 6th, 2010, O'Connor told a jury that a Kansas Scoutmaster who was a friend of his told him in 1970 that he had a mutual masturbation session with preteen or teenage Scouts. O'Connor, who lived in Kansas at the time, said he reported it to the Scouting executive of his local council in Kansas. But O'Connor said the organization failed to kick the man out, because in 1981, O'Connor chanced across him at a national jamboree. The man was wearing full Scouting attire. The man quickly ducked away when O'Connor confronted him, O'Connor said. O'Connor said he once again reported the man to regional and volunteer coordinators, but once again, O'Connor got the sense that nothing would happen. They basically told O'Connor, "Thank you for telling us. Leave it alone".
O'Connor also testified that the Boy Scouts were concerned with image. He said that he went to a 45-day national training school in 1967 in order to become a Scouting employee. He said he was taught about public relations, "that no PR was better than bad PR." O'Connor said if he had concerns that questioned a Scout volunteer's character, "we were told to report it to the Scout executive ... and then to be quiet." O'Connor further asserted that money was also a motivating factor in the way the Scouts operated, explaining that during the two years he worked as a professional Scouter in the late 1960s, he was upset by pressure put on him to inflate the number of boys involved in Scouting, in an attempt to justify more donations from the United Way. KATU video embedded below:
So what's this suit all about? 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, according to the suit. Dykes went on to molest the plaintiff in this case, now identified as 38-year-old Kerry Lewis, who claims he's had lifelong problems because of the abuse. The victim was previously identified only as Jack Doe and is being represented by celebrity attorney Kelly Clark. The Portland-area Cascade Pacific Council and the national Boy Scouts of America are the defendants in the suit. A March 17th OregonLive story indicates that Dykes has been convicted of molesting boys on three separate occasions, in 1983, 1985, and 1994.
The Cascade Pacific Council and the Boy Scouts of America strongly dispute the allegations that Dykes was allowed to continue to associate with Scouts. They say he was disfellowshipped from the church and ejected from Scouting after the early 1983 confession. Earlier in the trial, Boy Scouts attorney Charles T. Smith testified that child molesters are difficult to track because they move around so much and that the organization kept confidential files on them in an effort to protect children. After roughly four dozen witnesses and 52 hours of testimony, both sides have rested their cases; closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday April 8th. For more background on this case, read a series of OregonLive stories accessible HERE.
As for Larry O'Connor, who said he's still a Boy Scout volunteer in Alaska, he left the courtroom worried that the organization might eject him for testifying against practices he saw as indefensible. "I've seen the effect that child molestation has on people," O'Connor said. "...If my going down here can save one boy or girl, it was worth it. ... I hope I'm still a member when I get home."
Regardless of how one feels about the propriety or authenticity of the lawsuit, which will not be discussed in this post, Larry O'Connor is to be commended for putting himself on record and doing so at his own expense. This is the true Alaskan spirit.