8 abuse suits filed in Arizona against Boy Scout councils
Eight lawsuits filed Monday in Phoenix allege that Boy Scout leaders in Arizona had sexually abused children dating back decades, signaling what is expected to be a flood of lawsuits in the state before the end of the year for childhood sex abuse victims who now are 30 years of age or older.
Arizona joined several other states last year in extending the rights of childhood sexual abuse victims to sue their alleged assailants and any churches, youth groups or other institutions that turned a blind eye to the abuse.
Lawmakers gave victims until their 30th birthday to sue — a decade longer than before — and opened a one-time window for victims who’ve missed the cutoff, who now have until the end of 2020 to file suit. Arizona has no deadline for criminal charges in child sexual abuse cases.
Michael Pfau, a Seattle attorney who filed the eight lawsuits against local Boy Scout councils in Arizona and expects to file four more in the state by year’s end, said the Boy Scouts systematically failed to keep sexual predators who were Scout leaders from preying on children. “They weren’t warning Scouts and their families of the dangers,” Pfau said.
Tim Kosnoff, an attorney who founded the national group Abuse in Scouting, said his group will file 250 to 300 sex abuse lawsuits against local Boy Scout councils in Arizona before the end of 2020.
The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection in February in the first step toward creating a compensation fund for men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders. Close to 90,000 sexual abuse claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts are the latest major American institution to face a heavy price over sexual abuse. Roman Catholic dioceses across the country and schools such as Penn State and Michigan State have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
Among the contentious issues still to be addressed in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy case is the extent to which the Boy Scouts’ local councils contribute to the compensation fund. In its bankruptcy filing, the national organization said the councils, which have extensive property holdings and other assets, are separate legal entities and should not be included as debtors in the case.
Of the eight lawsuits on Monday, four were filed in Maricopa County, three in Pima County and one in Mohave County.
The Boy Scouts’ Grand Canyon and Catalina councils issued statements saying the groups apologize to the children who were harmed during their time in scouting and said they were outraged that their programs were used by people to abuse innocent children. “We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice and we encourage them to come forward,” the statements said.
The Las Vegas Area Council didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against it in Mohave County.
The Associated Press doesn’t typically publish the names of sex abuse victims, but Donald Calmes, who alleged in a lawsuit that a Scout leader sexually abused him in the mid-1980s in Arizona, agreed to speak on the record to let victims know that it’s all right to talk about the abuse they suffered.
Calmes alleges in his lawsuit that the Scout leader used his position of trust and authority to sexually abuse him during Scout camping trips when he was in his early teens. The lawsuit said the Boy Scouts should have known the Scout leader was likely to sexually abuse children and had been charged with five child molestation counts in 1983 in California, at least one year before he abused Calmes.
Now 49, Calmes told the AP that he spent more than 30 years trying to forget the abuse but that it left him always on guard and unable to form real bonds with people. A year ago, when he met the woman who would become his wife, Calmes said he decided to finally talk about what happened to him. “We didn’t choose for this to happen to us,” Calmes said.
Pfau, one of the lawyers representing Calmes, said the Scout leader in question was never criminally charged with abusing Calmes, though he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor child molestation charge in 1983 in Stockton, California, was removed from Scouting in 1988, and died in 2011.