This year, television ads began running and a website, abusedinscouting.com, was launched, where victims of abuse while participating Boy Scouts of America could contact lawyers with their stories. Hundreds of victims responded.
That’s what Tim Kosnoff, an attorney who has worked on sexual abuse cases involving the Boy Scouts as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says, who launched the television ads and website in collaboration with the Eisenberg Rothweiler law firm and San Diego attorney Andrew Van Arsdale.
As of Thursday, Kosnoff says he has gathered about 220 new clients who allege they were abused while participating in the program as children. The new allegations add to an already extraordinary tally of such claims against the organization dedicated to fostering the leadership and personal growth of young people.
He said he felt a “moral imperative” to bring their stories to light. “Kids are still being abused in scouting,” Kosnoff told The Washington Post in a phone conversation Wednesday. “This is not historical.”
His team says the allegations they’ve received span from 1953 to June 2018. The accusers are as old as 75 and as young as 15, and hail from 33 states. The crimes alleged range from showing lewd photos to Scout members to molestation.
The Post reviewed a partially redacted document, compiled by Kosnoff and his team, that tallied 150 of the people who have signed on as clients. The document contains details for about 110 of them, such as their age, the age at the time of the alleged abuse and what they say happened to them. The list was not yet updated with all the clients who had signed with Kosnoff when The Post viewed it.
They have not yet filed a lawsuit, and Kosnoff said he was still gathering information from new clients and was waiting to see whether the Boy Scouts would file for bankruptcy.
Kosnoff was spurred into action by reports in December that the Boy Scouts, which have rebranded as Scouts BSA, have considered filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which could significantly narrow the window for accusers to file claims and ensure those claims remained confidential.
“By declaring bankruptcy, institutions like the Boy Scouts or a Catholic diocese are often able to freeze ongoing litigation for a period of time, which can be frustrating and hard on survivors who have often gone a lifetime without the answers and justice they deserve,” said Michelle Simpson Tuegel of Seeger Weiss LLP, who is working with survivors of abuse within USA Gymnastics.
“I worry that these institutions use bankruptcy as a tool to try to limit their liability and avoid being held accountable by survivors,” she said, but noted that “compensation can still be obtained for survivors through a bankruptcy.”
Depending on the nature of the bankruptcy, it could also extinguish or severely limit any claims in the future after the bar date. The bankruptcy process can sometimes take years, thereby discouraging survivors while allowing the defendant to avoid much of the public scrutiny involved in the normal court system and process.
The Boy Scouts of America kept extensive records about sexual abuse of Scouts for decades, but only in the past few years have those documents become public.
In a statement provided to The Post, the Boy Scouts of America said the records were an “ongoing tool the BSA uses to keep youth safe from potential perpetrators.” They said individuals were added to the list if they violate, or were suspected of violating, company policy, and were subsequently banned from the Boy Scouts.
“Every instance of suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement,” the statement said.
In a separate announcement this week, attorney Jeff Anderson released a January testimony from professor Janet Warren of the University of Virginia, who had been contracted by the Boy Scouts for five years to pore over their “ineligible volunteer” or “perversion” files from 1946 through 2016. Her team identified 12,254 victims and 7,819 perpetrators in those documents.
The revelation came as Warren provided expert testimony for a case that centered on allegations of child abuse at a children’s theater company in Minnesota. Anderson’s firm represented the plaintiff in that case.
In response to Anderson’s news conference and Warren’s testimony, the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement that, “We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.”
“We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice,” they continued. “Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children."
The statement also said they “have enacted strong youth protection policies to prevent future abuse, including mandatory youth protection training and a formal leader-selection process that includes criminal background checks.”
Warren also emphasized in a news conference call convened by the Boy Scouts on Wednesday that she had found “no evidence of a coverup” during her analysis.
The Boy Scouts also have a helpline for members to report abuse.
In 2010, Boy Scouts of America was forced to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages in a case brought by a man who said he was assaulted by an assistant troop leader in the 1980s, when he was about 12. That lawsuit led to the partial disclosure of the files. In 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the full release of files after the lawyers for accusers and media organizations fought for access to the documents.
Also in 2012, the Los Angeles Times published a multipart investigation into the perversion files, obtaining documents that spanned from 1947 to 2005. They published a database containing information of 5,000 men and some women who were ousted from the organization because of suspected abuse during this time.
Several of the cases collected by Kosnoff in recent months did not appear in any of the files. He described the new allegations he had discovered as “rich in detail” and said that some clients broke down when they recounted their stories to his team. As part of the vetting process, they asked alleged victims questions such as their age at the time of the assault, their troop number and location, and details about what had happened to them.
While Kosnoff said the claims have not yet been verified with the Boy Scouts or in discovery, he was requiring accusers who wished to retain his services to sign a document saying they were prepared to give a sworn statement to law enforcement — as it would be a crime to do so falsely. But he was not surprised that so many had kept their stories secret for so long.