Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ore. victim: Scouts had no abuse prevention plan

Last updated April 20, 2010 5:31 p.m. PT

Ore. victim: Scouts had no abuse prevention plan

FILE - In this April 13, 2010 file photo, plaintiff Kerry Lewis reacts after the verdict against the Boy Scouts of America was announced in Portland, Ore. The jury has already awarded Lewis, 38, $1.4 million for the 1980s abuse and could decide the Boy Scouts organization must pay as much as $25 million more in punitive damages. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Lawyers for an Oregon man who won a sex abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America told a jury Tuesday that the organization should pay $25 million in punitive damages for failing to prevent that abuse.

The jury already ruled April 13 that the Scouts were negligent and awarded Kerry Lewis $1.4 million in compensatory damages for the abuse he suffered in the early 1980s by a former assistant Scoutmaster, Timur Dykes.

Attorneys for Lewis opened the punitive damages phase of the trial on Tuesday by arguing the Scouts never had a plan to protect boys or prevent abuse, including failure to warn parents.

Instead, attorneys Kelly Clark and Paul Mones said the Scouts relied on secret "ineligible volunteer" or "IV" files, also nicknamed "perversion files," that listed suspected molesters in order to keep them out of the organization.

Mones asked the man now in charge of those files, Nate Marshall, whether any evaluation or analysis had been done on the files to help create a protection or prevention program, and Marshall replied, "No."

"So, to the best of your knowledge, the Boy Scouts of America never used the IV files to determine the effectiveness of a protection program?" Mones asked.

"Correct," Marshall said.

The attorney for the Boy Scouts, Chuck Smith, told jurors in his opening statement they would hear details about a protection program that was eventually developed, including how it was implemented and expanded.

Smith called four witnesses in the afternoon to testify about "youth protection training" that has been expanded since it began in the late 1980s.

Matthew Devore, the Scout executive for the Cascade Pacific Council in Portland, was joined by a nurse who teaches at a community college, a biologist who is a veteran Scoutmaster, and a retired teacher - all saying that training to recognize sex abuse is a top priority and was expected to become mandatory across the organization.

But under cross-examination, none could say why the Boy Scouts had not set up a mandatory program so far.

Smith noted the Scouts enforce guidelines such as "two-deep leadership" to make sure adult leaders and volunteers are not alone with children, and offer educational materials, such as a DVD that warns about abuse by relatives, Scout leaders or other youth.

Devore and Marshall also testified the Scouts now conduct criminal background checks on all volunteer applicants.

During the trial, Clark and Mones introduced as evidence more than 1,000 files kept from 1965 to 1985 at the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas - part of a large archive dating back to at least the 1920s.

They told the jury the organization should be punished for failing to use those files to fashion an extensive program to educate parents, Scout leaders, volunteers and the Scouts themselves about the risk of sex abuse.

In his opening statement for the punitive damages phase of the trial, Clark told the jury they had already determined the Boy Scouts' failure was "reckless and outrageous," and the only question left was how much they should pay for that conduct.

Clark compared it to catching a burglar, telling the jury the thief must not only give back the things he stole - similar to compensatory damages - but also must be punished for his conduct, the justification for punitive damages.

Serena Morones, an accountant called by Lewis' attorneys, testified that the Boy Scouts are a nearly $1 billion corporation even though they are a nonprofit.

She said the assets include about $633 million in investments, $100 million in real estate and an art collection worth about $45 million.

Morones said that, using a conservative estimate on investment returns, the Scouts should earn at least $32 million a year, meaning it would take the organization only 9 1/2 months to pay the full $25 million requested in punitive damages.

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