Former Boy Scout sues, claiming sexual abuse in 1970s

2012-02-22T13:42:00Z 2012-02-22T20:00:40Z Former Boy Scout sues, claiming sexual abuse in 1970sBrian Wellner The Quad-City Times
February 22, 2012 1:42 pm  • 

Updated 7:49 p.m. Wednesday: Allegations of sexual abuse that occurred more than 30 years ago in Davenport are at the center of a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Boy Scouts of America.    

John “Tim” Bawden, who died in 1992, is accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy who was a member of his Boy Scout Troop 24 in the late 1970s, while he was a Scoutmaster, the lawsuit filed in Scott County District Court, Davenport, states.

Denying the allegations, Joyce Bawden said she will “vigorously defend” her late husband’s honor, according to a statement sent by her attorney, Robert Van Vooren, to the Quad-City Times.

She first learned of the lawsuit Tuesday, Van Vooren said.

“This is just going to create all kinds of hurt and angst,” Van Vooren said. “This is terrible, pretty heavy stuff.”

Bawden is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The defendants are the Boy Scouts of America, a congressionally chartered corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas, and the Illowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America, an Iowa corporation that is the regional Boy Scouts affiliate.

“Abuse is — and has always been — unacceptable, and the Boy Scouts of America extends its sympathies to the victims,” Thomas McDermott, the executive director of the Illowa Council, said in a statement.

The former Scout in this case is not named but is described by his attorneys as married, in his early 50s and now living in southeastern United States. Kelly Clark of Portland, Ore., and Patrick Hopkins of Des Moines are representing the man.

The lawsuit claims that Boy Scouts of America was at fault because by the early 1970s, its leadership knew there was a problem with child abusers in Scouting and failed to enact policies at the time to make Scouting safer. The lawsuit also claims the Illowa Council did not supervise Bawden to prevent him from abusing boys.

“The Boy Scouts should have known pedophiles were targeting Scouting,” Clark said. “They didn’t supervise this guy.”

The lawsuit says Bawden abused the plaintiff on at least three occasions in 1977 and 1978.

Hopkins said the abuse occurred during Scouting events at a local, unnamed school and often with “one-on-one” contact between Bawden and the Scout.

Clark, who said he has represented more than 300 survivors of child sexual abuse in cases against the Catholic Church, Mormon Church, Boy Scouts and other “institutions of trust,” won a jury trial against the Boy Scouts of America in 2010 in Portland, resulting in a verdict of $20 million, including $18.5 million in punitive damages.

He said the outcome of the Portland trial gave the plaintiff in the Davenport case encouragement to come forward.

Clark said the Davenport case is unusual because Bawden was “a big deal” both in Scouting and in his professional life. Bawden was the recipient of the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope Awards — two of Scouting’s highest honors — and served for a time on the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Clark said.

“Clearly, this is really, really sad,” Bawden’s son, Mike, of Bettendorf, told the Quad-City Times. “I lost my dad 20 years ago. It’s horrible to have this kind of thing come up like this.”

Van Vooren said he expects the Boy Scouts will soon select an attorney and file motions to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis it violates Iowa’s statute of limitations.

“It is fundamentally unfair that somebody would bring a lawsuit about activities that occurred 30 years ago when all the witnesses are gone,” Van Vooren said. “It doesn’t seem right to me.”

Iowa’s statute of limitations, he added, is going “to get tested in this case.”

Clark and Hopkins said they are confident their case won’t fail the statute of limitations test in Iowa.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a kind of vandalism of the soul, and most survivors take decades before they are able to come to grips with it,” Hopkins said, adding the victim approached the attorneys a year ago.

“We’re filing well within the statute of limitations,” Hopkins said.

It’s not the first time Bawden has been accused of molesting a member of his Boy Scout troop.

Mark Murphy filed a federal civil lawsuit against Bawden in March 1992, claiming Bawden had abused him from 1979 to 1985. Bawden denied the accusations. He died two months after the lawsuit was filed. 

The lawsuit was dismissed with no financial settlement in September 1992. Roxanne Conlin, who represented Murphy, said Wednesday that she dismissed the lawsuit but declined to go into details of the case.

“I’m not surprised to learn someone else has come forward,” Conlin said about the lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Clark confirmed that Murphy is not the man involved in the new lawsuit.

Over the past few decades, the Boy Scouts has worked to root out possible abusers from among its ranks, including eliminating one-on-one contact between youth and adults, according to McDermott’s statement.

The statement added that anyone suspected of abuse is immediately removed from Scouting, reported to law enforcement authorities and Scout executives and added to an “ineligible volunteer” file.

“They’ve come a long way,” Clark said. “I don’t expect these lawsuits will fundamentally change their (the Boy Scouts’) mission, except in a good way.”


Former Boy Scout sues, claiming sexual abuse in 1970s

Original story, posted 1:42 p.m. Wednesday: A nationally prominent Boy Scout leader is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy who was a member of his Troop 24 in Davenport in the 1970s, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Scott County District Court. 

John “Tim” Bawden was a respected local Scout leader, recipient of the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope Awards — two of Scouting’s highest honors — and served for a time on the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said attorneys Kelly Clark of Portland, Ore., and Patrick Hopkins of Des Moines, who represent the victim.

The lawsuit names as defendants the Boy Scouts of America, a congressionally chartered corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas, and the Illowa Council of the BSA, an Iowa corporation that is the regional affiliate of BSA.

Bawden died in May 1992, according to Quad-City Times archives.

“The Boy Scouts should have known pedophiles were targeting Scouting,” Clark said. “They didn’t supervise this guy.”

Upon hearing about the lawsuit, Thomas McDermott, the executive director of the Illowa Council, released the following statement to the Quad-City Times:

“Abuse is — and has always been — unacceptable, and the Boy Scouts of America extends its sympathies to the victims. Recognizing that youth protection requires sustained vigilance, we continue to evolve our multi-layered youth protection efforts, which include youth protection training and education for everyone in our organization and policies that prevent one-on-one contact between youth and adults.”

McDermott’s statement added that anyone suspected of abuse is immediately removed from Scouting, reported to law enforcement authorities and Scout executives and added to an “ineligible volunteer” file.

The victim in this case is now in his early 50s and now lives in the southeastern United States.

Hopkins, who said he has been a longtime advocate for adults who were victims of sexual abuse as children, said the victim approached him a year ago after he had “come to grips what what happened to him as a kid.”

The attorneys are confident their case won’t fail the statute of limitations test in Iowa, although they expect attorneys for the Boy Scouts will make a motion to have the lawsuit thrown out on those grounds.

- Brian Wellner

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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