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Lehigh County teen files civil suit against the Boy Scouts

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 14 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 15 2013 05:38:11 PM CST

Former scout files suit alleging sexual abuse

A lawsuit filed in Lehigh County Court against the Boy Scouts and Minsi Trails Council claims the policies in place to protect children didn't work.

In 2008 a scout volunteer, Gregory Ritter, was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy.

Now a civil suit claims the Scouts could have prevented the act if the rules were followed.

Those rules are called the Youth Protection Policies and one part states that one-on-one contact between adults and scouts are prohibited, something attorneys say the local chapter at Camp Trexler did not do.

The civil lawsuit stems from 2008 when the plaintiff, a 14-year-old counselor-in-training, told investigators Gregory Ritter sexually assaulted him.

"It took a long time for the boy to get the courage actually to proceed with this in a lawsuit form," said Mark Altemose, attorney for the plaintiff.

While the alleged sexual assaults didn't take place at Camp Trexler in Monroe County, court documents claim the officials with the Minsi Trail Council #502 did not take action when Ritter, a First Aid supervisor at the camp, quote "groomed" the child during one-on-one meetings at summer camp.

"The grooming process is where the perpetrator takes advantage of the emotional immaturity, the trust, and the vulnerabilities of a young person, "added Altemose.

The lawsuit says Boy Scout rules say more than one adult needs to be present during interactions with children.

Officials with the Minsi Trails Council say they have not yet seen the lawsuit, but says they were one of the first youth programs to develop youth protection policies and education.

"Any kind of situation that relates in the abuse or mistreatment of an individual especially a child are on a list of things that are unacceptable and reprehensible quite frankly," said Craig Poland, scout executive and CEO of Minsi Trails Council.

The criminal case ended when Gregory Ritter died of an apparent suicide in 2010.

"It was not my clients goal to have Mr. Ritter kill himself," said Altemose. "That's not what he wanted, he wanted him to go to prison."

Attorneys say they want the Boy Scouts of America nationally and locally to take responsibility for not following rules to prevent theses type of crimes.

"That because of this, parents, and other children will know from this day forward that those policies that the Boy scouts tell everybody about and that are on their face wonderful policies, are actually being enforced," added Altemose.

The plaintiff is seeking monetary compensation.

Attorneys would not say how much.  They did add they are asking for a jury trial.