SANTA BARBARA (AP) — Tens of thousands of documents detailing two decades of sexual abuse allegations within the Boy Scouts of America must be turned over as part of a civil case where a former Scout claims a leader molested him in 2007, a California judge ruled Wednesday.
The ruling by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Donna Geck clears the way for roughly 120,000 pages of internal files to be made public if they are entered as evidence in the case. The Boy Scouts sought to prevent the disclosure of the documents, but the state Supreme Court rejected its appeal earlier this month.
Plaintiff’s attorney Timothy Hale was stunned to discover the amount of files the Boy Scouts would have to reveal.
“We thought maybe half that,” Hale said. “It’s beyond what we expected.”
The judge’s ruling is the latest blow to the Boy Scouts organization, which has been forced to turn over files on alleged sexual abuse it has kept for nearly a century. Through other court cases, the Scouts were forced to reveal files dating from 1960 to 1991.
They detailed numerous cases where abuse claims were made and Boy Scout officials never alerted authorities and sometimes actively sought to protect the accused.
In the Santa Barbara case, the files that date to 1991 and involve allegations from across the nation will expose a “culture of hidden sexual abuse,” the Scouts had concealed, according to the former Scout’s lawsuit.
The ex-Scout was 13 when he said he was molested by a leader, who was later convicted of felony child endangerment.
The Boy Scouts has denied the accusations and argued the files should remain confidential to protect the privacy of child victims and of people who were wrongly accused.
Messages left for attorney Tom Delaney, who represents the organization, were not immediately returned.
Hale said he expects he will receive the documents sometime either this week or next. The documents are covered by a judge’s protective order and can’t be revealed until they become part of the open court record in the former Scout’s lawsuit.
No trial date has yet been set. The next hearing is set for April 24.
Hale has said a trial may not be held until the fall or later. In the interim he has urged the Scouts to turn over the files to law enforcement and publicly identify people accused of abuse.
“The bottom line is the implications for today’s children, reflected by number of documents, emphasizes the need to release these documents publicly,” Hale said.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)