Iowa man files sex abuse lawsuit against Scouts

DES MOINES – A man filed a lawsuit Friday against the Boy Scouts of America alleging he was sexually abused by a scoutmaster about 35 years ago.

The lawsuit, filed in Polk County District Court, alleges the man was sexually abused when he was 12 and 13 and a member of a West Des Moines troop. The man, who is now 49, lives in central Iowa. His name does not appear in the lawsuit. He alleges abuse in 1977 or 1978.

The Mid-Iowa Council and former scoutmaster Kenneth L. Newell, who now lives in Cedar Rapids, are also named in the lawsuit. Newell has never been criminally charged in the alleged abuse.

Patrick Hopkins, a West Des Moines attorney for the man who filed the lawsuit, said Newell was in his mid- to late 20s when he served as scoutmaster. Newell is now in his 60s.

A telephone number for Newell could not be located Friday.

The alleged victim is also represented by Portland, Ore., attorney Kelly Clark, who has pursued numerous similar cases against the Boy Scouts and other organizations.

A case in 2010 in Portland resulted in the release of files kept by the Boy Scouts dating from 1960 to 1985 listing Scout leaders suspected of child sexual abuse. Newell was not on that list.

Hopkins said he will be seeking additional Boy Scout files as part of the Iowa lawsuit.

Hopkins said the Boy Scouts organizations were named because he contends officials knew of a problem with sexual abuse of boys before the 1950s, well before the time frame alleged in the lawsuit, and failed to change practices or warn potential scouts and their parents.

Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith released a statement but said he could not comment on an active lawsuit.

“The abuse of anyone, especially a child, is intolerable and we extend our deepest sympathies to anyone who may be a victim of this type of behavior,” he said. “The Boy Scouts of America takes the protection of youth very seriously, which is why we have continuously enhanced our multi-tiered policies and procedures.”

He said the organization’s youth protection program includes education, criminal background and other checks, and prompt mandatory reporting. Other changes have been made to the leadership selection process, he said.

Mid-Iowa Council Scout Executive Bob Hopper said his organization is concerned about the allegations.

“The Mid-Iowa Council like Boy Scouts everywhere take this very seriously and it’s tragic if something happened to this guy,” he said.

Hopkins said the man who filed the lawsuit was empowered to come forward after watching stories about former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison following his conviction on charges that he molested 10 boys over 15 years.

“That case gave a lot of people time to reflect and time to gird themselves and get their inner strength to maybe go forward,” Hopkins said. “It has given voice to a number of people who have searched for a long time to attempt to gain that power.”

The lawsuit alleges sexual abuse, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and fraud.

Hopkins said other men have come forward with similar allegations, but it’s too early to say whether further lawsuits will result.