Three men filed lawsuits Wednesday against the Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America and two sponsoring agencies, alleging they suffered sexual abuse at scouting camps decades ago.
The suits filed in District Court in Great Falls are allowed under a 2019 Montana law that extended the time people can sue entities that should have known about child sexual abuse and allegedly failed to prevent it.
The law opened a one-year window to file otherwise time-barred lawsuits. The window closes in May.
The men told The Associated Press they filed the cases, in part, after they heard about sexual abuse claims being made against the Boy Scouts of America, which filed for bankruptcy protection in February to consolidate nearly 300 lawsuits and other expected claims.
The local councils are separate legal entities from the Boy Scouts of America. At least two other men have sued the Boy Scouts of America and the Montana Council alleging they were sexually abused by scout leaders who were not adequately supervised. Those cases are pending.
“This happened many years ago, when I was a child, and I thought it had been put to rest,” said Christopher Ford, one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit Wednesday.
A year after Ford told his parents about the abuse during a Scout outing near Libby in 1974, assistant Scoutmaster John David McBride pleaded guilty to 15 felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child and deviate sexual conduct without consent. The counts involved several boys.
McBride was given a three-year deferred sentence under conditions that included counseling, according to a 1977 letter from the Lincoln County sheriff that Ford said he obtained from McBride’s “ineligible volunteer” file kept by the Boy Scouts of America.
Ford said he found McBride’s file while doing research last year and learned he hadn’t served any prison time for the abuse.
“I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have to chalk up a childhood abuse to experience-building,” Ford told the AP. “It’s almost like they need to give you a badge for, you know, ‘Hey, I survived an abuse.'”
The AP generally doesn’t name people who say they are victims of sex crimes, but Ford has gone public to draw attention to his situation.
The Boy Scouts of America kept ineligible volunteer files almost since its inception, said Seattle attorney Michael Pfau, whose firm represents the three men who filed the lawsuits. Files released through other court cases allege that more than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 perpetrators.
The failure of the organization “to institute effective policies and procedures to protect children has to be judged in the context of how much information they knew,” Pfau asserted. “They can’t say they didn’t understand that single men are identifying Scouting as a means to gain access to children.”
Phones rang unanswered Wednesday at the Montana Council for Boy Scouts of America office in Great Falls. An email to Scout Executive Dirk Smith seeking comment was not immediately returned.
The lawsuits seek a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages.
Another plaintiff, who is identified in court records by the initials K.M., is suing the Montana Council alleging he was sexually abused by two leaders while he was a counselor in training over a period of up to 10 weeks at two council-owned camps during the summer of 1985, when he was 14.
A third case claims abuse by Scout leader Roger Maddox, He was also included in the Boy Scout’s “ineligible volunteer” file after complaints were made about him, Pfau said.
The Cascade County attorney’s office deferred prosecution of Maddox if he follows conditions such as no overnight stays with minors unless their parents knew he was accused of molestation.
Maddox has denied the allegations.
The plaintiff, who did not want to be identified and no longer lives in Montana, said in the lawsuit that he was repeatedly abused from 1974 to 1977, between the ages of 11 and 14.