4 more plaintiffs join lawsuit against Boy Scouts

4 more plaintiffs join lawsuit against Boy Scouts
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Four more men who say they were sexually abused by scout leaders in Idaho have joined a federal lawsuit accusing the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of covering up sexual abuse, bringing the total number of plaintiffs in the case to eight.

The lawsuit originally was filed in June with four plaintiffs, all identified as John Does, alleging they were sexually abused while attending scouting functions during the 1970s and 1980s.

At a news conference Tuesday in Boise, the plaintiffs' attorneys announced three more unidentified plaintiffs and a fourth man who agreed to go public in hopes that other victims would emerge.

"My hope is that others — because I do believe there are probably others who are living with this pain to this day — will have the courage to come forward also," said plaintiff John Elliot.

The case is still in the early stages, but attorneys for the Boy Scouts and LDS church filed responses in court denying any wrongdoing or any responsibility for the alleged abuse.

Elliot and the other plaintiffs allege both organizations covered up sexual abuse and allowed known pedophiles to remain in leadership positions.

Elliott and four of the other plaintiffs say they were abused by former Boy Scout leader Jim Schmidt while members of a troop sponsored by the LDS church. Convicted of sex crimes against children in Idaho in 1983 and in Maryland in 1996, Schmidt is now a registered sex offender living in Maryland. He is not a defendant in the lawsuit, and could not be reached for comment this week by the Idaho Statesman.

The Boy Scouts of America did not reply to The Idaho Statesman for requests for comment on Elliot's allegations. In a statement to the newspaper in June, spokesman Deron Smith said the organization "deeply regret(s) that there have been times when Scouts were abused" and pointed out the advances the group has made in requiring background checks, training and other policies to protect Scouts.

The LDS Church declined to comment further on the suit but reissued a statement it sent out after the lawsuit was filed. Spokesman Brian Whitlock said the church "has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind, and works diligently to prevent abuse and provide support and assistance to victims.

The Boy Scouts began keeping files on people who were deemed ineligible to volunteer for the organization — because they molested children, stole money from the organization or committed other transgressions — as early as 1920, according to the lawsuit. Thousands of those files have since been publicly released as former scouts sued the organization over sexual abuse.

The men contend the existence of those files shows the Boy Scouts of America knew scouts faced a real risk of abuse. They say the Boy Scouts of America's failure to warn prospective and current Scouts, their parents and others shows a pattern of fraud and misrepresentation. Likewise, the men say the LDS Church knew that some of its scoutmasters and troop leaders had molested boys in the past and that it nevertheless continued to put boys in harm's way.