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Documents Win $20 Million for Boy Scout Sex Abuse Victim

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Portland, ORA jury in Portland, Oregon recently returned a $20 million dollar verdict ($19,900,000) against the Boy Scouts of America after previously unseen documents obtained by the plaintiff's legal counsel showed that the organization knew as far back as the 1920s that it had a sex abuse problem.

"I think the duration and the volume of the child abuse internal files by the organization really caught the attention of the jury," says Kelly Clark, an attorney who has obtained a number of settlements in the past against the Boy Scouts of America and other organizations where children have been the victims of sexual abuse.

"We had known about these files for a number of years," says Clark. "I have done a number of cases against the Boy Scouts but we had not been able get access to them. However, this judge agreed they were relevant to our theory, which was that the Boy Scouts had a national problem with child abuse that they knew about."

Clark's client, Kerry Lewis, who is now 40 years old, alleged that Boy Scouts troop leader Timur Dykes repeatedly assaulted him between 1981 and 1985. Lewis claims that the organization failed to warn parents and children about the troop leader even thought it knew Dykes was a pedophile.

What began as a local lawsuit turned into a national indictment of the organization when the judge agreed ordered the Boy Scouts of America to produce all files from across the US between 1965 and 1985.

Ten days before the trial began, the Boy Scouts turned over some 1200 files containing everything from newspaper clippings about scout leaders who had been charged with sexual assault to correspondence between local and national scout offices regarding allegations of assault. The correspondence includes names never before made public of persons accused of inappropriate behavior, some of whom were asked to leave the organization. The letters also reference previously unnamed victims.

"They [the national organization of Boy Scouts] were putting these things together at a rate of one or two a week per decade," says Clark. "I think the flash point of liability clearly was the failure of the local leadership to warn my client's parents about this guy."

But what the jury also understood is that "the national Boy Scouts had knowledge about these kinds of problems and failed to train local leaders on how to deal with the problem or to warn parents about the kinds of abuse that exists," says Clark. Kerry Lewis has consistently said the lawsuit was about being believed, and "I think the verdict speaks loudly to that."

The Boy Scouts are asking that the files obtained for the trial remain sealed, but Clark and others will argue at a hearing on June 2 that they remain part of the public record. If successful in the argument, Clark's firm will post the files on the internet and ask that the Boy Scouts release all its relevant files going back to the 1920s.

"There are a lot people that won't be happy about that."

Kelly Clark is a partner in the firm of O'Donnell Clark & Crew. He has twice been elected to the state legislature and is a well-known public interest lawyer. He has brought cases in state and federal court on civil rights, voting rights, education rights—including pioneering wins for charter schools—as well as cases on religious liberty, free speech and property rights.

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