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Lawsuit filed against the Boy Scouts moves to federal level

A lawsuit that a sexual assault survivor and his mother filed against the Boy Scouts of America was moved to federal court last week amid the organization filing for bankruptcy.

The move comes after the family sued last year in Jackson County Circuit Court, The Kansas City Star reported. It will now be in the U.S. District Court for Western Missouri.

The lawsuit is one of many across the country against the organization. The suit alleges the organization mishandled sexual abuse allegations over multiple decades. It was also filed against the Heart of America Council and former assistant scoutmaster Terry A. Wright.

In 2016, Wright ordered the 11-year-old boy to take his pants off and then molested him, according to the lawsuit. The child had come to Wright’s tent for help treating a rash. Wright was convicted of child molestation in 2018 in Saint Clair County Circuit Court.

When the organization filed for bankruptcy last week, it called for all victims to come forward.

The Boy Scouts of America told the newspaper that the organization believes and apologizes to those harmed in the program.

“The Boy Scouts of America is committed to fulfilling our social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting, while also ensuring that we carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities for years to come. In order to meet these dual objectives, the national organization has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy,” the statement said.

The organization wants to use Chapter 11 in hopes of surviving a barrage of lawsuits, many of them made possible by recent changes in state laws to allow people to sue over long-ago sexual abuse.

The Boy Scouts also requested that all such lawsuits be moved to U.S. District Court for Delaware to be litigated along with the bankruptcy.

If the Missouri case is moved to Delaware, a resolution could be delayed for years and his client will likely get a smaller settlement, said Hans Van Zanten, the family’s attorney.

In Delaware, a federal judge could decide the outcome of these lawsuits, preventing some of the facts from being revealed as would happen if they were litigated individually.

“The Boy Scouts, if they get everything they’re asking for … they will be the biggest beneficiaries of this bankruptcy filing. It will definitely not be my client or any of the other victims around the country making claims,” Van Zanten said.

In a separate incident, Wright pleaded guilty in February in Jackson County to possession of child pornography and invasion of privacy. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

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