By Roger Plothow and Marty Trillhaase
Post Register editorial board members are Roger Plothow, publisher; J. Robb Brady, publisher emeritus; Marty Trillhaase, Opinions page editor; and Dean Miller, managing editor.
"The Boy Scouts organization may be staffed by men and women who feel they have the best interests of the youth foremost. However, there is evidence in this case that a cultural atmosphere of ignorance and naivete exists to such an extent that the very purposes of the organization are ignored for personal reasons resulting in circumstances where youths who should be protected are preyed upon." -- Judge W.H. Woodland
Here's what's been kept under wraps for more than four months: District Judge W.H. Woodland, the one impartial figure in the latest Boy Scout molestation case, believed the victims and found that Boy Scout officials had engaged in outrageous behavior.
Woodland's rulings, issued in early November, are as close to a judgment as this lawsuit ever got. The lawsuit settled shortly thereafter, and the Boy Scouts' lawyers sought to hide Woodland's rulings -- indeed the existence of the case itself -- from you.
It's now painfully obvious why.
Woodland released that file last week. The most compelling thing in it is what this 26-year veteran of the bench wrote. He traced the history of convicted child molester Brad Stowell's career to 1988, when he abused a 6-year-old, to his arrest nine years and at least 23 victims later at Camp Little Lemhi. Stowell used his job at the camp "to find and groom his youthful victims." For six years, Scout officials up and down the chain of command ignored warnings from neighbors and other Scouts about Stowell's behavior. And for 14 months, Scout leaders and their lawyers knew Stowell had abused a boy -- yet kept it to themselves. That boy's parents found out from lawyers representing another victim in another lawsuit.
According to an affidavit from lawyer Chad A. Campos, Scout lawyer Gary Dance "stated that it would be in everybody's best interest to just allow the children and Stowell 'to get on with their lives.' He further stated that it was entirely possible that Doe and other victims 'could have been asleep' when the molestations occurred and might not remember anything anyway. He concluded by asserting that in any event, he did not feel the Boy Scouts had any obligation to inform the (family) or the proper authorities of the molestation of Doe as disclosed by Stowell in his deposition."
Fortunately, another judge -- Gregory Anderson -- disagreed and instructed the plaintiff's attorneys to contact the proper authorities.
That's one bombshell in the newly opened file.
Here's another: Woodland ruled the Scouts could be socked with punitive damages. In other words, the plaintiffs attorneys were free to ask a jury to give the victims money -- above and beyond covering their own injuries -- to punish the Scouts for "oppressive, fraudulent, wanton, malicious or outrageous conduct."
Idaho is a conservative state and judges rarely open a lawsuit to punitive damages unless they believe it will "serve the public policies of punishing a defendant for outrageous conduct and of deterring future like conduct."
Woodland's message to the Boy Scouts was unmistakable: Something's wrong. Fix it.
But the Boy Scouts did just the opposite. They used their legal mechanisms to put Woodland's admonition in a vacuum, under seal. Then they told the public nothing was wrong. No mistakes were made, so nothing needed fixing -- and nothing was fixed.
Can there be any stronger evidence why justice needs to be conducted in public? Can there be any doubt that there are other victims who have yet to tell their parents?
That's why this newspaper went to court, and urged Woodland to open the file.
Now the truth is out. Parents have been empowered to protect their sons. The Boy Scouts can be held accountable. Justice has been served.
And for that, you can thank Judge Woodland.