Minnesota Judge Orders Release of More Confidential Boy Scout Records on Sexual Abuse

Star Tribune: A Minnesota judge on Tuesday ordered the handover of confidential national Boy Scout records on sexual abuse from 1999 to 2008 in a move attorneys said could add to the body of evidence showing that the organization failed to take adequate steps to protect young people from molesters in its ranks.

Ramsey County District Judge Elena Ostby issued the order in a lawsuit involving former suburban Minneapolis scoutmaster Peter Stibal II, who is serving a 21-year prison sentence for molesting four scouts in his troop. The lawsuit was filed by one of his victims.

That victim’s attorney, Jeff Anderson, said these files are from internal Boy Scouts of America records on adult volunteers suspected of molestation that are widely known as the “perversion files,” but they cover a later period than records made public last October by court order in Oregon, which covered from 1965 to 1985. He called the order a triumph over institutional secrecy.

Attorneys for the Boy Scouts of America and the local Northern Star Council did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Ostby ordered that identifying information in the files be blacked out, but Anderson’s co-counsel, Paul Mones, said the material would still be valuable for establishing what scouting officials knew about the problem of abuse and when because they cover more recent times, when Stibal was a leader. Defense attorneys have two weeks to produce them. Mones said this order also follows similar orders by state courts in Texas and California for the Scouts to produce files covering 1985 through 2011 to plaintiffs suing in other pending abuse cases.

“The significance of this decision is that it is the third state court decision in less than one year in which the Boy Scouts have been ordered to turn over the `perversion files’ to a plaintiff who was a victim of Scout leader sexual abuse,” Mones said, adding that in each case judges determined the files were important for these victims to demonstrate that the Scouts knew about the abuse problem before these boys were molested.

The Minnesota lawsuit names the national and local scouting bodies, Stibal and the church that sponsored the troop. It’s scheduled to go to trial this spring.

Stibal, now 47, was sentenced in June 2011 to more than 21 years in prison for molesting four scouts in his troop at River Hills United Methodist Church in Burnsville. A jury first convicted Stibal of molesting one scout. He then agreed to a deal in the cases of three other boys, in which he maintained his innocence but acknowledged the prosecution likely had enough evidence to convict him. The crimes happened from 2003 to 2008, when the boys were 11 to 15.

Anderson’s firm filed the lawsuit just a few days before Stibal’s sentencing. It says the national and local organizations had known for decades that pedophiles had infiltrated scouting, and that they should have known the danger Stibal presented. The lawsuit alleged that Stibal molested the unidentified Scout at least 10 times in 2008. It’s seeking unspecified damages in excess of $50,000.

The Scouts have been sued multiple times over allegations of sexual abuse by adult leaders, including those chronicled in the long-confidential internal records that were released by an Oregon Supreme Court order last October in a case Mones handled. Stibal was not listed in those files, but the Minnesota lawsuit says they revealed that scouting was a “pedophile magnet and sanctuary for child molesters” and that its screening system was ineffective.

The files from the Oregon case are the only ones that have been made public so far because they were actually introduced as evidence in a trial, Mones said. The Texas order has been appealed and those files remain sealed. Mones said it’s too early to know whether the documents sought in the Minnesota case will become public and it might depend on whether they’re used at trial.

The Boy Scouts of America has apologized for past lapses and cover-ups and strengthened its youth protection policy. The organization now mandates that any suspected abuse be reported to police.