By Nigel Duara Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Boy Scouts of America have requested extensive redactions to 20 years’ worth of so-called perversion files, which the Oregon Supreme Court ruled must be made public.
The 20,000 pages of files containing sex abuse allegations from 1965-1985 were introduced as evidence in a landmark lawsuit in Portland against the Boy Scouts because of the abuse of several youths by an Oregon Scout leader. The Scouts lost the lawsuit in an April 2010 jury ruling.
The Boy Scouts fought to keep the files confidential. But in June, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled they should be made public, with redactions of the names of victims and people who reported the crimes.
In a motion filed Thursday, the Scouts asked that the identities of other Scouts, parents and volunteers be redacted. The Scouts argue that the redactions they’re asking for won’t affect the court’s order and will protect people from undue embarrassment or retaliation.
The files contain accusations against Scout leaders ranging from child abuse to lesser offenses that would prohibit them from working in the Scouts.
The release of the confidential Scouts documents will give the public its deepest look at people flagged by the organization as suspected child molesters and show how Scouts kept them out of leadership. The ruling also could make it easier for other secret Boy Scout files to be used in pending and future lawsuits from former scouts who claim they were molested by troop leaders.
The Oregon files came to light when they were used as evidence in a lawsuit in 2010. A jury awarded a record $18.5 million to a man who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s, finding that the Scouts failed to protect him.
The jury decided in 2010 that the Boy Scouts were negligent for allowing former assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes to associate with Scouts after Dykes admitted to a Scouts official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys.
Media organizations, including The Associated Press, The Oregonian and The New York Times, argued after the trial that the documents should be made public since they were introduced at trial. A judge agreed, and the case was appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.
In his original ruling, Multnomah County Circuit Court judge John A. Wittmayer ruled that the names of those accused of wrongdoing, paid Scouts staff and public officials such as police and courts officials, be made public.
After the Supreme Court’s June 14 affirmation of Wittmayer’s order to make the files public, the Boy Scouts of America and attorneys for the suit’s plaintiffs began to review proposed redactions.
“As the review of the first one hundred files took place, a concern developed about the names and identifying information of categories of people,” according to the Scouts’ filing on Thursday.
While confidential Boy Scout files have been used in previous lawsuits, the documents ordered released by the Oregon court constitute the largest number of such records that will be exposed to public scrutiny.
Similar Boy Scout files are being sought in at least 40 cases nationwide against the Texas-based organization.
The Scouts conceded that publishing records of interviews or discussions in the files complies with the court order, but the organization said publishing the names of children or their parents would serve no purpose.
“Given that the intervenors are media entities … it is also likely that the disclosure would result in the privacy of these individuals being disturbed, as well as potential unwanted and intrusive publicity,” the Scouts said in the filing.
The Scouts have offered to bring a sample of five to 10 files to court to demonstrate what they would change in the redactions.
The 20,000 pages — representing files on 1,200 people — are part of a larger trove of confidential documents the Boy Scouts began compiling decades ago.