Last month, a Portland jury awarded $20 million in a sex abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America. It was one of the largest civil judgments against the scouts. The Boy Scouts are appealing the verdict.
After the trial members of the jury declined to talk to the press. But one juror has agreed to share her experience with OPB. Amelia Templeton reports.
The trial centered around Portland troop 719 and a popular assistant scoutmaster named Timur Dykes. In 1983 Dykes admitted to the head of the troop he had molested a number of scouts. Dykes was told to keep away from kids.
Margaret Ormsbee was a juror in the case.
Margaret Ormsbee: “When it came to Kerry's case, Timur Dykes admitted in January that he had molested 17 kids.”
The Kerry she is talking about is Kerry Lewis, the plaintiff.
Margaret Ormsbee: “In April he was hanging out with Kerry and started molesting Kerry.”
She says that chronology convinced most of the jurors the Scouts failure to act helped cause Lewis' abuse. His attorneys argued that the Boy Scouts' problems with abuse were mismanaged not just locally but at a national level. Ormsbee says she agreed.
Margaret Ormsbee: “I know that it's a huge agency with fingers across the US but you need to set up a consistent protocol. If you can have consistent protocol that you can't have a gay scout leader you can have consistent protocol that you have to take sex abuse training.”
But not all the jurors came to the same conclusion.
Ormsbee says some jurors didn't think the national Boy Scouts bore any responsibility for bad decisions in Portland. In the end, nine agreed that negligence had taken place, the minimum needed to reach a verdict. They awarded Lewis 1.4 million dollars for pain and suffering.
Ormsbee said at that point, the jury came close to not awarding any punitive damages against the scouts.
Margaret Ormsbee: “it was… one, two… four of us against the rest. We were really close to not going to punative damages.”
Six boxes of confidential boy scouts records were entered as evidence in the trial. The files show that between 1965 and 1985, at least 1000 adult volunteers were kicked out for what the scouts labeled “perversion.”
Ormsbee says she and the other jurors spent several hours reading through the files during deliberations. She called a number of them appalling. And she said that in some of the files she read, known abusers weren't kicked out
Margaret Ormsbee: “Case after case after case of probationary period. No definition of what it is. They're still allowed around kids.”
Throughout the suit, attorneys for the scouts maintained that the files were used to keep suspected abusers from registering with a new troop or joining the scouts again in a different state.
Several media organizations are seeking access to those confidential files on the grounds that are now part of the public record. OPB is one of the groups.
Ormbsee's gone back to her job at a local non-profit. She says she's proud of the jury's work.
Margaret Ormsbee: “It's going to take a lot for them to change and hopefully 18 million can change along the way. It ultimately gave me a lot of faith in the system. I mean, people took it really seriously. “
No other members of the jury wanted to speak to the press.
At least nine other Oregon men have filed abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts in the same Mulntomah county court. An attorney representing the men said that those cases may not make it to trial. The parties are discussing a possible settlement.