Boy Scouts Files For Bankruptcy In Preparation For Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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With enormous legal costs looming ahead due to sexual abuse allegations, the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The BSA filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws reports the Washington Post.

The move comes as the organization scrambles to handle thousands of claims from potential victims who say they were abused as Scouts.

Membership in the 110-year-old organization has dropped dramatically since the 1970s when the BSA had nearly five million members. Today, the organization reports only half that.

In response, the Boy Scouts have attempted to change with the times by adjusting membership requirements. In 2013, openly gay scouts were allowed to take part, followed by openly gay leaders in 2015. And in 2017, rules were changed to allow girls to participate.

But over the last decade, media investigations and lawsuits have uncovered internal Boy Scout documents that reportedly show years and years of alleged abusers were accused of preying on Scouts.

Legal teams across the U.S. have begun signing up clients in anticipation of lawsuits.

One lawyer, Michael Pfau, says he now represents nearly 300 alleged victims. He says the bankruptcy filing “is an acknowledgment finally on the part of the Boy Scouts that they had this enormous problem and the problem is so large they can’t deal with it themselves.”

According to the New York Times, the legal maneuver is “likely to freeze the lawsuits against the group and set a deadline for filing any more claims.”

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“The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” Roger Mosby, the president and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement released shortly after midnight Tuesday. “While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process — with the proposed Trust structure — will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”

BSA’s national chairman, Jim Turley, said the organization isn’t trying to avoid responsibility for compensating victims but plans to do so through a victim’s compensation trust as opposed to piecemeal lawsuits.

“I want you to know that we believe you, we believe in compensating you, and we have programs in place to pay for counseling for you and your family by a provider of your choice,” read Turley’s statement in part.

Some of the files that came to light were released in an Oregon case where a jury ultimately held the Scouts liable for $18.5 million in punitive damages in 2010.

A group called Abused in Scouting has been reaching out to individuals who were abused as scouts urging them to come forward. They report finding nearly 2,000 people with complaints.

But time could be of the essence as time limits in bankruptcy cases often have windows of between three to nine months to come forward.

Additionally, statutes of limitations have been a problem for some folks who were sexually abused many years ago.

But several states have moved to set aside those limitations temporarily for sexual abuse victims.

New York state passed a one-year window for such filings last summer, and New Jersey put in place a two-year window in December.

Tim Kosnoff, a lawyer for Abused in Scouting, told the Times, “If you’ve ever considered coming forward, now is the time.”

It’s worth noting today’s bankruptcy filing is a response to alleged sexual abuse that happened long before openly LGBTQ people were allowed to participate. In nearly all of the cases, the alleged abuse occurred decades ago in Boy Scout chapters that were operated by Christian churches.

That said, this writer fully expects the virulently anti-LGBTQ activists to seize on these developments and somehow try to blame the advent of openly gay scouts and leaders.

Legal experts say they see parallels between the Boy Scouts and other organizations that have looked to bankruptcy filings to cope with numerous lawsuits involving sex abuse scandals.

USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in 2018 after 350 sexual assault victims came forward accusing team physician Larry Nassar of inappropriate behavior. And several Catholic dioceses did the same after clergy were accused of covering up sexual abuse of children spanning decades.

More from ABC News:

(sources: Washington Post, New York Times)

$84 Million Paid To 564 Victims Of PA Catholic Church Sex Abuse

(image via Jack Sharp/Unsplash)

In the aftermath of a landmark grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid out almost $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse.

The Associated Press reports seven of the Keystone state’s eight dioceses organized victim compensation funds after the release of the August 2018 grand jury report showed hundreds of priests had molested over 1,000 children since the 1940s.

One diocese, in Altoona-Johnstown, has no compensation fund saying it lacks the funds after paying out $15.7 million in an earlier clergy abuse scandal.

In addition to the abuse, the grand jury report also indicates church leaders had systematically worked to cover up the abuse.

According to the AP, the average payout to victims across the seven dioceses has been slightly more than $148,000. But that’s well below what an adult victim of childhood abuse would expect to see had they been able to sue in court.

Claims administrator Camille Biros, who was hired to handle the claims for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as well as Allentown, Erie, Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses, told the AP, “These are all time-barred claims, so it’s not going to be the kind of numbers one sees in a courtroom.”

Pennsylvania state law limits such lawsuits to those victims under 30 years of age. State lawmakers had announced plans to amend such laws but there’s no guarantee any changes will materialize.

Biros says compensation payouts are based on “the nature of the abuse, how long it went on, the age of the child, (and) the effect of the abuse.”

But some claims are rejected due to lack of evidence or not meeting eligibility criteria.

One man who allowed his name to be used in the reporting is David Zernhelt, who tells the AP he was offered $400,000 by the diocese of Allentown and accepted it.

Zernhelt says he wasn’t willing to trust lawmakers to pass a legislative fix to the state laws any time soon.

“It doesn’t make me rich,” said the 45-year-old of Easton. “It creates a positive starting point for me. I can try to make my life a little bit better and put this behind me.”

Zernhelt told the administrators of the Allentown fund that Rev. Thomas Kerestus sexually assaulted him two to four times a week for five years. The abuse began when Zernhelt was only 13-years-old.

Zernhelt’s family went to the church about the abuse but says the diocese “swept it under the rug.”

Kerestus, who was named in the grand jury report, died in 2014.

Attorney Richard Serbin has been critical of the compensation funds because the process allows the church to avoid courtroom lawsuits which could become a “public airing of its dirty laundry.”

Although Serbin has worked for years on behalf of past church victims, he admits some of his clients have taken the payouts for various reasons.

“Some did it because they want to try to move forward and are looking to heal, and they feel this will be of assistance, and for those clients, I do think it’s good, and I recommend they take it,” he told the AP. Others, he said, “are in desperate financial situations, and they needed the money.”

(source: AP)

Evangelist Gets Over 1,000 Years In Prison For Child Sex Abuse Charges

Paul Acton Bowen (mugshot)

Yet another religious hypocrite has been found to be a sexual predator.

Alabama evangelist Paul Acton Bowen has been sentenced to 1,008 years in prison after pleading guilty to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving six male victims whose ages range from 13 to 16.

Bowen was originally arrested in April 2018 and charged with second-degree sodomy, enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes, and second-degree sex abuse of a male minor under the age of 16. Further investigation led authorities to the additional victims.

The sentence is the maximum allowed on all counts and is ordered to run consecutively, not concurrently. Bowen was also ordered to pay $840,000 in fines for all counts, also the maximum.

Standing in shackles, Bowen addressed the Etowah County court before being sentenced apologizing to his victims and his own family.

“The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming and has been for a long time,” he said. “My heart was never wanting to hurt anybody but my mind was not well.”

AL.com reports the 39-year-old “served for 12 years in a local church, led a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and more than 170 countries around the world.”

The victims told investigators they met Bowen through his ministry, and the abuse lasted months, sometimes years.

District Attorney Jody Willoughby read the impact letter of one of the victims who wrote he initially saw Bowen as a “cool guy” who gave him money and took him on trips. But the teen developed a drinking problem that led to blackouts as he tried to cope with the shame of abuse and now sees himself now as “damaged goods.”

A second victim wrote that Bowen “did his best to ruin the lives of other young men.”

A third victim intended to testify in court, but became so overwhelmed with emotion he changed his mind.

Bowen’s attorney John Floyd told the court that his client acted out after being sexually molested himself as a boy.

In addition to his time in prison, Bowen faces another trial in Jefferson County on three felony charges of traveling to meet a child for sex, enticing a child for a sexual act and sodomy. That trial is set for April 20, 2020.

The local NBC News affiliate WVTM reported on Bowen’s arrest back in 2018.

Diocese Of Brooklyn To Pay $27.5 Million To 4 Men In Sex Abuse Settlement

The New York Times reports that the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn will pay out $27.5 million to four men who were sexually abused as children by a religion teacher.   Each of the men will receive $6.8 million according to the settlement.
(image via Wikimedia)

The New York Times reports that the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn will pay out $27.5 million to four men who were sexually abused as children by a religion teacher.

According to the settlement, each of the men will receive $6.8 million.

That amount ranks as one of the highest figures paid to survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

According to New York Law Journal, Angelo Serrano, a volunteer and director of religious studies at St. Lucy-St. Patrick’s, allegedly abused the plaintiffs between 2003 and 2009 when they were between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.

Serrano pleaded guilty in 2011 and is currently serving a 15 year prison sentence.

This comes in the aftermath of a stunning grand jury report in Pennsylvania which found more than 1,000 children had been the targets of sexual misconduct by hundreds of priests over decades.

Sparked in part by that grand jury report, the New York State attorney general announced two weeks ago a statewide civil investigation into sex abuse allegations within the Catholic Church and its possible cover-up by church leaders. The New York AG has reportedly issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state.

Pennsylvania: Clergy Abuse Hotline Calls Surge In Aftermath Of Catholic Church Report

In the week since the release of a damning grand jury report asserting Roman Catholic Church officials worked to protect hundreds of priests accused of sexual misconduct, calls to a clergy abuse hotline in Pennsylvania have surged.

In the week since the release of a damning grand jury report asserting Roman Catholic Church officials worked to protect hundreds of priests accused of sexual misconduct, calls to a clergy abuse hotline in Pennsylvania have surged.

Josh Grace, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, told USA Today that that the hotline has received over 300 new calls since the release of the report.

Grace added, “We’re answering every call and following up every lead.”

According to the grand jury report, which included claims of abuse stretching back 60 years, over 1,000 abuse victims were discouraged from reporting claims of abuse to prosecutors in an effort to shield hundreds of priests.

AG Shapiro tweeted recently that the investigation was “active and ongoing,” and would not end with the grand jury report.

The grand jury report, the result of a two year investigation, was presented to the press last Wednesday by AG Shapiro who deemed the report an “honest and comprehensive accounting of widespread sexual abuse.”

According to the report, the alleged abuses stretched across the Keystone state from the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Those dioceses regularly minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics.

Despite the statute of limitations, two priests have now been charged with sexually abusing children. One of the priests admitted to misconduct with a 10-year-old boy more than 20 years ago.

The Vatican has since condemned the alleged abuses detailed in the report on as “criminal and morally reprehensible.”

“Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and faith,” said spokesman Greg Burke in a statement for the Vatican. “The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

UPDATED: 7th Former Wrestler Accuses Congressman Of Turning Blind Eye To College Sex Abuse

GOP Congressman Jim Jordan has been accused of turning a blind eye to alleged sex abuse by a college wrestling coach when he was an assistant coach
Rep. Jim Jordan

UPDATE: A 7th former wrestler has come forward saying Rep. Jim Jordan knew about the allegations of sex abuse.

From The Washington Post:

David Range, who wrestled for Ohio State in the late 1980s, said Jordan had to have known about alleged sexual misconduct by Richard Strauss, an athletic doctor whose behavior is under investigation by the school, because it happened regularly to team members and people talked about it. Jordan has denied he knew, saw or heard about any inappropriate behavior while he was an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995.

“Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening — yes, most definitely,” Range told The Washington Post. “It was there. He knew about it because it was an everyday occurrence.”

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Two former college wrestlers have accused Rep. Jim Jordan (R) of knowing about alleged sexual abuse of wrestlers at Ohio State University three decades ago and failing to act.

From The Washington Post:

Jordan (R-Ohio) responded after two former Ohio State wrestlers told NBC News on the record that he must have known about abuse allegations against Richard Strauss, a former doctor in Ohio State’s athletics department. Jordan served as assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1987 to 1995.

“Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State,” Ian Fury, a spokesman for Jordan, said in a statement. “He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice.”

Former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato told NBC News that Jordan is a “liar” for saying he did not know about the alleged abuse.

“He knew,” DiSabato said in a brief phone interview with The Post. “That’s not a question. Why he had a spokesman put out misinformation is frankly beyond comprehension, because is he the target of this? No. It was common knowledge and he knew.”

DiSabato said he was first abused by Strauss at 14 as a high school wrestler. He said he believes Strauss abused 1,000-2,000 young athletes.

“He was Larry Nassar before Larry Nassar,” DiSabato said, referring to the disgraced former sports physician who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing girls and young women.

Ohio Congressman Denies Turning Blind-Eye To Sex Abuse

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio

Rep. Jim Jordan, a powerful Republican congressman from Ohio, has been accused of turning a blind-eye to sex abuse during his tenure as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University.

In April, the university began an investigation into allegations that Dr. Richard Strauss, who served as the team doctor, sexually abused team members from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s.

Strauss died in 2005.

Jordan, who served as assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, has publicly denied any knowledge of the abuse.

But his denials have been called out as lying by former members of the wrestling team.

Three former Ohio State wrestlers have come forward saying it was “common knowledge” that the doctor regularly showered with the athletes and touched them inappropriately during appointments. They say its impossible Jordan would not have known about the abuse. One player says he told Jordan about the abuse himself.

From NBC News:

Former head coach Russ Hellickson, Jordan’s mentor, said in a recent video — made by Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler — that Hellickson had told Strauss that he was being too “hands on” with students.

DiSabato, whose allegations against Strauss prompted Ohio State to open its investigation, called Jordan a “liar.”

“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” DiSabato said. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”

DiSabato said he reached out to Jordan this year, before going to the university, to tell Jordan that he planned to go public with his allegations. Jordan told him to “please leave me out of it,” DiSabato said. “He asked me not to get him involved.”

Another former wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, told NBC News he informed Jordan himself about an awkward incident with the doctor in the mid-1990s.

“I remember I had a thumb injury and went into Strauss’ office and he started pulling down my wrestling shorts,” he said. “I’m like, what the f— are you doing? And I went out and told Russ and Jim what happened. I was not having it. They went in and talked to Strauss.”

According to Yetts, he and his teammates went to Jordan several times about Strauss.

“So it’s sad for me to hear that he’s denying knowing about Strauss,” he said. “I don’t know why he would, unless it’s a cover-up. Either you’re in on it, or you’re a liar.”

“Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State,” a spokesman for Jordan wrote in an email to NBC News.

After the NBC News story was published, Jordan’s rep added: “He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice.”

Another Ohio State wrestler, former UFC world champion Mark Coleman, has come forward telling the Wall Street Journal Jordan was aware of, but didn’t respond to, the allegations of sexual misconduct.

“There’s no way unless he’s got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State,” Coleman said in an interview Friday.

DiSabato, however, has forwarded to NBC News an email he sent Jordan on April 24 asking Jordan to “give your full attention to the information attached to this email.”

“We [are] watching you, “ wrote DiSabato. “You have the platform to cut through the double talk, placation and finger pointing.”

Jordan never responded.

Based on testimony from athletes in 15 varsity sports over the years, DiSabato estimates Strauss sexually assaulted and/or raped around 1,500/2,000 athletes at OSU from 1978 through 1998.

Jordan is a staunch ally of Donald Trump and is rumored to be a contender for Speaker of the House after Paul Ryan retires early next year.

Regarding the Ohio State scandal, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, “I believe him 100 percent.”

Accuser drops sex abuse lawsuit against X-MEN director Bryan Singer

Bryan Singer

Variety reports that after a whole lot of bluster and attention, the sex abuse lawsuit against X-MEN director Bryan Singer has died a quiet, voluntary death:

The sexual abuse suit against Bryan Singer has been dropped by accuser Michael Egan, four months after the “X-Men: Days of Future Past” director was accused of abusing Egan when he was a minor.

A federal judge granted Egan’s motion for motion for voluntary dismissal in U.S. District Court in Hawaii on Wednesday.

Egan has also dropped his lawsuits against former Disney executive David Neuman and former TV exec Garth Ancier.

Bryan Singer accuser looks to withdraw sex abuse lawsuit

The man who accused Hollywood director Bryan Singer of sexual abuse now wants to drop his lawsuit.

From OUT.com:

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Egan III, the man who filed multiple sexual abuse cases against Bryan Singer and three other men, is seeking to withdraw his last remaining lawsuit.

On Monday, he quietly filed a motion titled: “Plaintiff’s Opposition to Motion to Withdraw as Counsel; Request for Court Order of Dismissal, Without Prejudice or an Award of Costs or Fees, in the Interest of Justice — filed by Michael F. Egan, III (pro se).”

Though the motion is sealed, Egan says that he want the case dismissed “without prejudice or an award of costs or fees, in the interest of justice.” If the case is dismissed without prejudice, Egan could refile the action at a later date.

Egan originally filed several lawsuits involving high profile Hollywood names. But the cases began to unravel when statements he had made in the past contradicted the allegations in his lawsuits.

Egan accused Bryan Singer of sexually abusing him in Hawaii, but said in 2003 that he had never been to the Aloha state. Egan also accused David Neuman of sex abuse, but then statements came to light where he said he never had sex with the man.

Hard to win a law suit when you’re arguing with yourself.