Boy Scouts settle California suit over abuse

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America settled a sex abuse case Thursday involving a 20-year-old California man who was molested by a Scout volunteer in 2007 — a decision that will keep years' worth of "perversion" files detailing sex abuse allegations secret from the public.

The announcement of the settlement in the Santa Barbara case came after three days of trial. The terms were confidential at the Boy Scouts' request, said Tim Hale, the plaintiff's attorney.

"I can't go into details about the number, but it was a great result," Hale said.

Hale had won the right to use the "perversion" files to try to show the Boy Scouts were negligent by not properly training, educating and warning parents, Scouts and volunteers about sexual abuse.

He told jurors in his opening statement that they would receive a CD with 100,000 pages of internal documents from 1971 to 2007 during their deliberations. Many of the documents have not been seen outside the Scouts.

The plaintiff's attorneys had planned to use up to 100 "egregious" files next week while cross-examining witnesses and eliciting testimony from experts, Hale said.

Two files were discussed in open court in the first three days of trial, he added.

The plaintiff's law firm has the remaining files but they are sealed by a judge's protective order.

Past settlements in similar cases in Texas and Minnesota also kept the records secret.

In an emailed statement, the Boy Scouts said the Scouts were "safer because those files exist" and said in 2012 the Boy Scouts of America National Council reviewed all the files from 1965 to the present and reported to authorities any files that did not clearly indicate a prior report had been made to police.

"The behavior included in these reports runs counter to everything for which the BSA stands," Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts spokesman, said in an emailed statement.

"We regret there have been times when the BSA's best efforts to protect children were insufficient, and for that we extend our deepest apologies to victims and their families."

The Boy Scouts' decision to settle three days into trial is telling, especially with the files in play, said Jody Armour, a law professor at the University of Southern California who is familiar with the case.

"They are looking at an avalanche of unseemly details about this trusted organization being broadcast much more widely than necessary," he said.

"The Boy Scouts are going to have to make a calculation going forward," he added. "Which causes more damage? The loss of money in settlements or the loss in goodwill by having our name dragged through the mud in open court?"

Files that the Boy Scouts kept between 1960 and 1991 have been made public through other cases.

The release of the more recent files — from 1991 to 2007 — could have revealed how much the Scouts improved their efforts to protect children after several high-profile cases and the implementation of a youth protection policy in the late 1980s. Previous large verdicts against the Scouts focused on cases where alleged abuse occurred before the policy was put in place.

In 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Scouts to make public documents from 1965 to 1985.

The records showed that more than one-third of abuse allegations never were reported to police and that even when authorities were told little was done most of the time.

Those documents came to light after a jury in 2010 imposed a nearly $20 million penalty against the Scouts in a molestation case in Portland, Oregon, that dated to the early 1980s.

The California case alleged that a volunteer named Al Stein, now 37, pulled down the plaintiff's pants when he was 13 and fondled him while the two worked in a Christmas tree lot.

Stein pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment in 2009 and was last living in Salinas as a registered sex offender.

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