A man who claims he was the victim of sexual abuse by a scout leader in the 1970’s won a $7 million jury verdict against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the Associated Press reported.
The victim, who remained unidentified in court documents, said his troop leader, Siegfried Hepp, sexually abused him three times while he was a member of a New Fairfield, Connecticut Boy Scout troop.
Evidence brought forth at trial by the victim’s lawyers showed that Hepp had been accused of molestation by another boy in the same troop, and that Hepp pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual touching of another minor in 1999 and was “a registered sex offender for a decade,” the AP said.
The jury also cleared the Connecticut Yankee Council of the Boy Scouts of America, formerly the Fairfield County Council of Boy Scouts of America, of any wrongdoing regarding the case.
Director of communications for the BSA, Deron Smith, said officials with the organization disagree with the jury’s ruling and are planning to review the decision, and that the Scouts “now have several measures in place to prevent abuse, including criminal background checks, mandatory reporting of abuse allegations and a comprehensive education program,” according to the AP.
“While we can’t comment on the lawsuit, we extend our sympathies to those involved,” said Smith.
The victim’s lawyers also showed during the trial that the BSA had kept secret files since the 1920s containing information on alleged pedophiles and instances of sexual abuse. They also alleged that BSA officials took no measures to protect scouts or warn troop leaders that pedophiles were targeting scouts.
“While no amount of money can compensate for this disgusting behavior, this verdict sends a strong message that turning a blind eye to this kind of conduct will not be tolerated,” said Brandon Bogle, attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm.
The decision was the largest verdict ever for compensatory damages against the Boy Scouts’ national organization. The BSA was also found liable for punitive damages by the jury, and the amount of that settlement will be decided by a judge.