Boy Scouts settle California abuse case, averting release of files

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 29, 2015 5:37 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Boy Scouts of America have settled a high-profile sex abuse lawsuit in a move that averts a requirement to release files detailing abuse claims and incidents across the country from 1986 to 2007, an attorney said on Thursday.

The case in Santa Barbara County was closely watched because of the potential for public release of years of documents the Boy Scouts call the ineligible volunteer files but which have often been publicly derided as the "perversion files."

The terms of the settlement in the civil lawsuit, brought by a 20-year-old man who was abused at age 13 by a Scout leader in 2007, were not immediately released.

"I'm still optimistic that at some point these files are going to become public, it just didn't happen with this lawsuit," said Tim Hale, an attorney for the plaintiff.

In another case in 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of roughly 20,000 pages of confidential Boy Scout files documenting suspected or confirmed sexual abuse by the group's leaders and volunteers between 1965 to 1985. But thousands of additional documents from later years remained under seal.

Earlier this month, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Donna Geck ruled the files released in the Oregon case, and thousands of similar documents from 1986 to 2007, could be presented at trial in the California case.

But due to the settlement, the public will not be allowed access to the later trove of documents not released in the Oregon case, Hale said. He could not give an exact count of how many files there were between 1986 and 2007.

The Boy Scouts have argued against releasing their ineligible volunteer files publicly in court. They have said the files are intended to keep out individuals whose actions are "inconsistent with the standards of scouting."

Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said the organization was pleased it had reached a settlement.

"While we can’t comment on the specifics related to this matter, even a single instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable," Smith said.

Al Steven Stein, 37, the Scout leader at the center of the case, pleaded no contest to child abuse and child annoyance in 2008.

Stein, who was originally charged with abusing two other minors in addition to the plaintiff at the center of the civil case, is believed to be living as a registered sex offender in Salinas, California, Hale said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)