The Boy Scouts of America has been found negligent in the case of Siegfried Hepp, a Connecticut troop leader accused of sexually assaulting multiple Scouts. Hepp was convicted of unlawful sexual touching of a minor in 1999.
Witnesses at the trial, held in Waterbury, Connecticut, said that the Irving-based organization knew of widespread sexual abuse in its ranks as early as the 1920s. The organization, they said, kept thousands of what it called "confidential files" in locked cabinets at its Irving headquarters. Scout executives who testified during the trial confirmed the files' existence.
Instead of telling parents or law enforcement about the abuse, plaintiffs said the Boy Scouts of America covered it up in order to protect its all-American image. One Scout leader named in a file presented as evidence was accused of molesting 34 boys.
The jury in the case agreed, hitting the Scouts with $7 million in penalties. They also awarded further punitive damages, which will be determined by the judge at a separate trial. According to the Boy Scouts of America's 2013 financial report, the organization had $1.5 billion in net assets.
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"The Boy Scouts of America appreciates the court's time in the evaluation of this matter," Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts of America's communications director told the Connecticut Post. "Though we disagree with the findings, we will review the decision and comply accordingly. In addition, while we can't comment on the lawsuit, we extend our sympathies to those involved."