A young man who says he was sexually abused at a Boy Scout camp in northeastern Pennsylvania by a supervisor who later committed suicide as he was about to go on trial filed a lawsuit against the national Scouting organization and its local affiliate on Friday.
The plaintiff, now 18, says that he was sexually assaulted by Gregory Ritter, a 44-year-old first-aid supervisor at Camp Trexler in the Poconos and that the Boy Scouts’ negligence allowed it to happen. The abuse took place in the fall of 2008, when the plaintiff was 14, and followed months of “grooming” by Ritter, the lawsuit said.
Ritter was charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and other offenses. He killed himself in January 2010 on the day his trial was supposed to start.
The lawsuit, filed in Lehigh County Court, seeks at least $50,000 plus punitive damages from both the Boy Scouts and the local affiliate. It’s the latest in a series of sexual-abuse claims brought against the Boy Scouts of America or its affiliates amid the public release of thousands of so-called “perversion files” dating from 1959 to 1985. The documents, released in October by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, chronicled a decades-long cover-up of abuse by scoutmasters and other adult leaders around the country.
Craig Poland, head of the Minsi Trails Council, a defendant along with the Boy Scouts of America, expressed sympathy to abuse victims and said the century-old organization is committed to keeping kids safe.
“The abuse of anyone, especially a child, is intolerable, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who may be a victim of this type of reprehensible behavior,” he said in a statement. “While we have not seen this lawsuit, we extend our deepest sympathies to those involved.”
The lawsuit cited nine abuse claims made against the Minsi Trails Council, which runs Camp Trexler, between 1985 and 2008 and said the Allentown-based affiliate failed to follow its own “youth protection policy,” which barred adult leaders from being alone with children.
It said Ritter invited the accuser to spend nights at his cabin, where he groomed him for abuse. It said the accuser was given alcohol and was assaulted during three overnight stays at the cabin.
Attorney Mark Altemose, representing the accuser, said Friday he will seek all of the Minsi Trail Council’s files on abuse claims through to the present day. The Boy Scouts organization has fought attempts in other states to force it to turn over files kept on more recent abuse cases.