I HAVE SEEN the Boy Scouts of America's secret perversion files. Not read them—that's still against court order—but seen them, all 20,000 pages stacked in 10 cardboard boxes in the bland hallway of Portland attorney Kelly Clark's office. The files document over 40 years of banned Boy Scouts leaders, laying out the names and crimes of troop heads outed as atheists, thieves, and gays.
"Each file represents a life lost," says Clark's co-counsel, Paul Mones.
One file tells the story of Timur Dykes, the local Scoutmaster who decades ago confessed to molesting multiple young Scouts but was allowed to remain volunteering with a troop. Three weeks ago, a Portland jury awarded the first of Clark's five clients, former Scout Kerry Lewis, nearly $20 million in punitive and emotional damages for the failure of the Boy Scouts and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to stop Dykes.
Sixty percent of that money will go into the state's crime victims fund, but according to the attorney team, the award in Lewis' case is the largest ever levied against the Boy Scouts.
Clark is a thin, intense man who dresses casually for a lawyer. He got involved with this landmark sex abuse case in 2007, when two brothers in the victimized troop asked him to hear their story about repeated sexual abuse at the hands of Dykes.
In his 27 years practicing law, Clark has taken on the messy, difficult cases most sane lawyers would try to avoid: sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church, the Mormons, and, now, the Boy Scouts.
Lewis had never told his family about the times Dykes touched him. But when he heard about the brothers' trial, Lewis offered himself as a witness. He soon became a plaintiff.
Clark knew Lewis' case was strong: His abuse occurred entirely after Dykes had told Boy Scout leadership and a leader in a local Mormon church that he had abused a number of kids. But Clark did not intend to make Lewis the poster boy for abuse in the Boy Scouts. He was worried about putting Lewis through a grueling trial.
"Six months ago, honestly, he was not dealing with any of this. He was not in touch with himself, he was at pretty much the same place he's been for the last 30 years," says Clark.
But the lawyers and victims did not get to choose which of their five abuse cases was tried first: The judge picked a number at random and Lewis' number was up.
Clark and Mones' team quickly hired a therapist. Suing the Boy Scouts meant Lewis would have to tell the story of his deepest secret to a courtroom of strangers.
It is Clark's job to make sense of senseless crimes. Throwing an avalanche of facts (20,000 pages of them) at a jury won't help them truly understand what happened.
"People understand story. How do we take these facts and put them together in a story that makes sense and is true? Here's the story: What did the Boy Scouts know? When did they know it?"
Thirty hours of therapy helped prepare Lewis to take the stand. And his testimony that day was gripping.
"It was compelling to see him struggle to put words around this," says Clark. "We didn't know if he could do it. We didn't know if a self-described tough guy could open up to a group of strangers and say, 'This is where I'm damaged, this is where I'm all fucked up.'"
Though the Boy Scouts' perversion files comprise photocopied pages stuffed into dozens of three-ring binders, they are sealed. Lewis' case is only the second time the files have been used in court and the Boy Scouts of America appealed to the judge to keep them out of the public record. The New York Times, Associated Press, and the Oregonian are fighting to get the perversion files out into the light.
"I think these lawsuits make a difference," says Clark. "I think the Catholic Church is a safer place for children now than it was 20 years ago. Do you think that's because the bishops got religion, or is it because they got sued?"