BOISE, Idaho – Two men who say they were abused by a Boy Scout leader in the 1970s and 1980s are suing the Boy Scouts of America, claiming the organization was repeatedly warned that the Scout leader was molesting children and failed to act.
Ronald Morgan, of Mesa, Ariz., and a man calling himself only "John Doe" filed suit Monday in 4th District Court under a new Idaho law extending the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims.
Previously, victims of child sex abuse had to file civil claims within five years after turning 18. The new law allows a victim to file a claim within five years of the time he or she "discovers or reasonably should have discovered the abuse and its relationship to an injury suffered by the child."
Morgan said it took him years to realize that the fondling he says he received from the Scout leader, James Schmidt, had made a lasting impact in his life.
"You minimize everything and you think it's something else — you think it's something wrong with you," Morgan said. "I didn't do anything wrong."
Schmidt is a registered sex offender living in Maryland. He could not immediately be reached by phone for comment Tuesday. He is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The men contend that the Boy Scouts' Boise-based Ore-Ida Council received several complaints about the man's inappropriate conduct in 1979, including verbal complaints from parents and written statements alleging he had put his hands down boys' pants at scouting events.
Though the organization told Schmidt about the accusations, the lawsuit contends, he was allowed to continue working with the Boy Scouts.
Dave Kemper, an executive with the Ore-Ida Council, said he has not yet seen the lawsuit and so could not comment on it.
However, he said, the Boy Scouts have "some very straightforward policies regarding the selection of leaders and making sure our youth is safe."
The organization now does criminal background checks on Scout leaders, and when allegations are made against a leader that person is suspended until the matter is cleared, Kemper said.
Morgan said he was abused in either 1979 or 1980, when he was a member of a Nampa troop and Schmidt was the troop's assistant scoutmaster. Morgan said Schmidt groped him after an outing, persisting until the boy kneed Schmidt in the groin.
"John Doe" alleges he was molested in 1982, with the assistant scoutmaster sodomizing the 9-year-old boy and forcing him to perform sex acts with the boy's cousin. That abuse allegedly occurred over a six-month period, taking place during Scout campouts and in the attic of the Ore-Ida Council's headquarters.
Ultimately, Schmidt was arrested by Caldwell police in 1983 and later convicted of child molestation after police interviewed parents and 16 Boy Scouts who said they had been abused or knew of abuse, Doe's lawyers said. Doe was one of those boys, said Leander James, an attorney representing Doe and Morgan.
Both Morgan and Doe are asking for damages in excess of $10,000, but Morgan said his main goal is to make the organization more accountable.
"My son is in Scouts at this time and I'm hoping that this lawsuit will make a difference," Morgan said.