A Santa Barbara Superior Court judge has issued a tentative ruling ordering the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to produce thousands of pages of files, including allegedly secret molestation cases, from 1971 to present.
“It’s unprecedented, and it definitely has national implications,” said Santa Barbara attorney Tim Hale, representing a former scout suing the BSA over being molested by a volunteer at a Christmas tree lot in 2007.
Opening up the so-called “perversion files” has been strongly fought by the BSA in this and other cases as irrelevant to a present-day case and an invasion of privacy to persons named, sometimes by rumor.
In her tentative ruling, Judge Donna Geck found the files relevant but ordered that names and other personal information be redacted. Hale argued that the files show that the Scouts have long kept the files secret, thereby keeping parents unaware that their children were vulnerable in an organization where molestation occurs more frequently than the public realized.
In her ruling, Judge Geck said Hale reported already receiving 1,890 files from 1971-1991 via another case, consisting of 28,936 pages of what the BSA describes as “Ineligible Volunteer” files, listing those supposedly not allowed back in scouting due to such things as drinking, financial improprieties, and molestation.
But of 43 files reviewed randomly by Hale and his staff, all dealt with sexual abuse and in a sampling of five reflecting sexual abuse, the alleged perpetrators were placed on Scout probation, then allowed to re-register with another troop. There was no indication that the incidents were reported to authorities.
The judge noted that the top local Scout executive tried to keep the 13-year-old boy’s parents from reporting the molestation to authorities, which Hale argues was further evidence of Scouting’s culture of secrecy and cover-up.
Judge Geck’s ruling will be the subject of a hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning, January 25.
The suit seeks punitive damages against BSA, contending that the member of Scout Troop 36 was molested by 400-pound Al Steven Stein at a yule tree lot.