Friday, February 22, 2008

Idaho Man Files $5 Million Lawsuit Against The Boy Scouts And The LDS Church For Alleged "Sex Abuse" 40 Years Ago; Update On Ferris Joseph Case

A man has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, contending they didn't do enough to stop a Scout troop leader from sexually abusing children. The lawsuit was filed Thursday February 21st, 2008 in Malheur County Circuit Court in Vale, Oregon, by a 53-year-old man identified only as Tom Doe, who grew up in Nampa, Idaho, but now lives in Portland, Oregon. Full stories published in the Deseret Morning News, the Idaho Statesman, and OregonLive.com.

Doe alleges that Larren Arnold, a leader of his Nampa, Idaho, Boy Scout troop, sexually abused him for about three years, starting in 1967, and that the abuse left him with debilitating physical, emotional and mental injuries. Doe alleges he was abused during scouting trips and outings in eastern Oregon and in Nampa. He also claims that Arnold was allowed to continue the abuse for years.

Strengthening his case is the fact that Larren Arnold was convicted of sexual abuse of a child under 16 in Bannock County in 1985. He was then listed as a registered sex offender in Bannock County but is no longer on any Idaho sex offender registry, according to public records. Bannock County probation officials would not release any details of the case or Arnold's current sex offender status.

Doe maintains that leaders of the Boy Scouts Ore-Ida Council, the national Boy Scouts of America organization and the church knew they had "institution-wide child abuse problems."

David Kemper, the scout executive for the Ore-Idaho Council, said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and so couldn't give specific comments. However, Kemper said, the Boy Scouts take any allegation of child abuse seriously.

J. Craig Rowe, spokesman for the LDS Church in Idaho, said the church takes the allegations seriously. He criticized Clark's approach to the case. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a zero tolerance policy for child abuse and does all it can to help victims and report abuse. It will seriously investigate these decades' old allegations," Rowe said in a prepared statement.

"However, the way in which this case was filed raises a serious issue of which both the court and the public should be aware. The plaintiff's attorney contacted media before the lawsuit was even filed knowing the church could not respond, in an attempt to create headlines rather than discover the facts. This approach trivializes the seriousness of child abuse and its tragic consequences", Rowe concluded.

Kelly Clark, who is Tom Doe's attorney, is a professional litigator who has brought dozens of similar cases against the Roman Catholic church and is currently litigating seven cases against the LDS Church. "Based on my experience I would expect to find a long, ugly, broken trail of child abuse," he said. "I'm conscious of where we are and I would say that these both are rightly respected institutions, but the fact is in the 1960s and 1970s they were not doing their job."

Commentary: So it appears that Kelly Clark is trying to turn it into a media circus even before the trial begins. As a professional litigator. he's had the practice. Interesting background story on Kelly Clark HERE.

Frankly, I'm calling bullshit on this case. Unlike the Ferris Joseph case, Tom Doe obviously remembered the "abuse", so he had ample opportunities to press the issue before. He became an enfranchised adult 35 years ago - why didn't he press the case then? According to the Idaho Statesman story, Clark said his client was prepared to take it to his grave, but he started having "issues" and decided he had to spill it.

The big difference between this case and the Ferris Joseph case is that Joseph supposedly didn't remember the "abuse" until he was told about it by a family member in October 2004. Although the LDS Church attempted to get the Joseph case thrown out because the statute of limitations had long since expired, in a ruling filed January 31st, U.S. Magistrate John Simko ruled that since Joseph filed the suit within three years of remembering the abuse, denied McMahon's request.

But although the trial was to have started February 25th, Simko put it on hold so the state Supreme Court can decide whether the law dealing with the statute of limitations would apply to the church as well as the alleged perpetrator. "The question pending in United States District Court is one of South Dakota law which may determine the outcome of the case pending in United States District Court," Simko wrote.

Joseph's lawyer, Adam Horowitz, said the Supreme Court ruling will apply beyond the Joseph lawsuit. "It will have far-reaching application beyond this case. However the court rules, it will affect other churches, it will affect other employers, it will affect other organizations as well," he said. More background on the Ferris Joseph case HERE.

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