Files may shed new light on Scouts sex abuse

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MINNEAPOLIS — Confidential files turned over for a lawsuit set to go to trial in Minnesota may shed new light on the problem of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America.

The documents were produced in litigation brought against the Boy Scouts and a former scoutmaster, Peter Stibal II, who is serving 21 years in prison for molesting four Scouts. Attorneys for one former Scout won a court order for the nationwide internal files, commonly known as "ineligible volunteer" or "perversion files." They cover the years 1999-2008, much more recent than similar files forced into the open in an Oregon case last year.

"We are intending to use those to show they have had a longstanding knowledge of the scope of a serious problem like Stibal," said Jeffrey Anderson, the lead attorney for the molested Scout. "They kept files not known to the troops and members of the public and had a body of knowledge that was not made public."

Anderson, who built a national reputation for frequent lawsuits in clergy abuse cases, declined to say what the new documents might show ahead of the trial that begins today in St. Paul.

An attorney for the Scouts did not return messages seeking comment. The Scouts' public relations director, Deron Smith, said in a prepared statement that protecting Scouts is "of paramount importance" to the organization, which claims over 2.6 million young people and over 1 million adult leaders as members in its various branches.

In the Oregon case, Boy Scouts files made public from the years 1965-1985 revealed a decades-long cover-up, showing that men suspected of abuse were often excluded from leadership positions but rarely turned over to law enforcement. The files also contained accounts of alleged pedophiles allowed to stay in Scouting under pressure from community leaders and local Scouting officials.

Portland lawyer Bill Barton, who handled the first big abuse case against the Scouts in the 1980s, said he didn't think the newer files would illuminate much about what he considers the core issue, a history of Scouting officials minimizing the problem.

"I think the broad landscape's pretty much on the table," Barton said.

The Minnesota plaintiff is identified only as John Doe 180. His lawsuit targets the national organization, the local Northern Star Council and River Hills United Methodist Church in Burnsville, which sponsored his troop.