Former Minnesota Boy Scout's abuse lawsuit settled

The Boy Scouts of America has reached a civil settlement with a former boy scout who says he was abused by scoutmaster Peter Stibal in 2008, the law firm of Jeff Anderson and Associates announced Monday.

Over the July 4th weekend that year, Stibal went camping with the family of a teenager now identified in court documents as John Doe 180. The victim awoke in his family's motorhome -- which was parked near Stibal's cabin in Paynesville -- to find Stibal fondling him. The victim also told authorities Stibal abused him twice before -- including at a scout camp near Bemidji. Stibal was the trusted leader of Boy Scout Troop 3650 in Burnsville at the time.

For those crimes -- and the abuse of three other scouts -- Stibal was sentenced in 2011 to more than 21 years, including 14 years in prison plus seven years of conditional release. The plaintiff is the second person to settle with the Boy Scouts following Stibal's abuse.

A suit filed against the Boy Scouts of America and Northern Star Council on behalf of one of the victims claimed they were aware that Stibal was unfit to serve as a scout leader but kept him in his leadership position. It also said the organization was negligent in allowing Stibal to have access to children without oversight.

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"He would engage in horseplay, wrestling with the scouts, backrubs. He would have the scouts on his lap," said attorney Sarah Odegaard, who represented the victim.

Odegaard she is grateful he came forward to hold the Boy Scouts of America accountable for keeping children safe.

Odegaard said because of this lawsuit, a judge in St. Paul ordered the Boy Scouts to release more of its records of adult volunteers suspected of sexual abuse.

The records, released last year and commonly known as the "perversion files" were key to the civil lawsuit, Odegaard said.

"Those files are important because they are the knowledge that the Boy Scouts had of this danger, and they did not use any of that known pattern, practice to either warn, inform, or train anyone in scouting about that danger," she said.

Odegaard would not provide details about the settlement. The 2011 complaint demanded a judgment of at least $50,000.

The Boy Scouts of America and the Northern Star Council released statements saying they were pleased with the settlement. Director of Communications Deron Smith said the BSA "seeks to prevent child abuse through a comprehensive program of education, chartered organization leader selection procedures, criminal background and other checks, barriers to abuse and prompt mandatory reporting." Both Boy Scout groups offered sympathies to the victims of abuse.

The Northern Star Council -- which oversees scouting in central Minnesota and part of Wisconsin -- was originally named as a defendant in the lawsuit but was later dropped. Northern Star spokesman Kent York said while even one abuser is one too many, he says it's important to keep the problem in perspective.

"In the last 10 years, we've probably had 50,000 scouting volunteers in our Northern Star Council territory, and this is the only scout leader who has been convicted of this type of a charge. It's too many, but we do our very best and we work at it every day to improve and enhance the safety practices we have in place," York said.

York said those practices include background checks for volunteers, and education on how to recognize and report sex abuse for the scouts. He also says adult leaders are not allowed to be alone with scouts.

"There's no one-on-one contact with kids and adults. We have a two-deep leadership policy that's in place. And when the policies and the practices are followed, that's what keeps kids safe," York said.

Despite the scouts' polices, Stibal's abuse of boys could continue to cost scouting's national organization. Odegaard said her St. Paul firm has served papers in a lawsuit on behalf of a third victim.