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Court files reveal extent of Pa. Boy Scouts abuse


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 12, 2021
Scouts suits, wasted info, unemployment delays, unprotected workers, jail therapy, sex laws, and the end of an era. It's Monday — Ramadan Mubarak.

At least 1,793 claims of sexual abuse have been made against Boy Scouts councils in Pennsylvania amid a national reckoning and what is shaping up to be the largest single child sex abuse case in U.S. history.

The claims against the Scouts span decades and were made public through a bankruptcy process initiated by the national organization last year, with more than 83,000 abuse claims tallied nationwide.

Pennsylvania claims have been made in every corner of the state — ErieChambersburg, Wilkes-BarrePittsburgh, McKean and Potter Counties, and beyond. Often, those brought to Scouts leaders were kept from authorities.

Meanwhile, ongoing pushes to make it easier to file legal claims against abusers and the institutions that hide abuse in Pennsylvania drew forceful resistance from powerful organizations, including the Scouts, which alone spent $486,505 between 2016 and 2018 to quash such an effort here, a USA Today investigation found.  
THE CONTEXT: The Scouts may have seen bankruptcy as a way to "get out, limit their liability, and protect their local organizations,” attorney Michael Pfau told the Seattle Times. Instead, Pfau said the organization revealed "the largest number of sexual abusers of any institution in our country, ever."

The deadline to file abuse claims for compensation via a victims fund set up as part of the national organization's bankruptcy plan has already passed, severely limiting the options of survivors. 
While other states have passed so-called "lookback laws" that temporarily open the door for civil suits and legal claims regardless of when the abuse occurred — many with the Boy Scouts of America and Catholic Church in mind — Pennsylvania isn't one of them, meaning a more rigid standard and timeline will be applied to claims emanating from here.

“They are no doubt going to be looking to the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for how much they will pay,” attorney Jason Amala told WHYY of the Scouts.

An effort is underway now to open a two-year lookback window in Pennsylvania. The measure has House support but faces an uncertain future in the state Senate, all while the clock keeps ticking for Boy Scouts victims across the commonwealth.

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"Donald Trump is going to shock the world! We’re ready for war, if we’re needed."

—Suspected Capitol insurrectionist Samuel Lazar, of Ephrata, in an online video posted the morning of the attack

VACCINE UPDATE: People in Pennsylvania's Phase 1C vaccination group are eligible starting today. Phase 1C includes essential workers in the following fields: food service, banking and finance, news media and communications, local government, and more. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» FIGHTING MISINFORMATION: Join Spotlight PA at 5 p.m. April 20 for a conversation and reader Q&A about how partisan groups are masquerading as local news in Pennsylvania and undermining public trust. RSVP FOR FREE

POST IT: Views from above Pittsburgh. Thanks, @tevindvideoSend us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
WASTED DETAILS: State Sen. David Argall (R., Schuylkill) plans to introduce legislation that would compel the Wolf administration to make wasted COVID-19 vaccine details public, telling Spotlight PA, “I just think people have the right to know.” The moves follows the administration's denial of a public records request from Spotlight PA seeking the same.

DELAYED BENEFITS: Pennsylvania's unemployment computer system will be offline for two weeks in June, with users unable to file their claims during that time and officials urging them to plan accordingly, per the Post-Gazette. The outage adds to an already fraught year for the system and the people who rely on it, as Spotlight PA detailed.

NO PROTECTION: At least 4,200 Pennsylvania workers were laid off or furloughed by companies that took emergency COVID-19 relief money to save their jobs. The Inquirer reports the number is likely higher, with an estimated 90,000 U.S. workers laid off or furloughed by employers that claimed more than $1.8 billion in federal payroll protection loans.

JAIL TREATMENT: Most jails favor medications over therapy to treat incarcerated people with mental illness. PublicSource examines what it would take to change that and the consequences of not having done so already. "You’re not rehabilitating, you’re just pacifying," a former inmate said. "Incarceration was pretty much my psych ward."

TRAFFICKING LAWS: Pittsburgh sex workers say two Trump-era laws, touted as landmarks in the war against sex trafficking, may actually be making the problem worse, Pittsburgh City Paper reports. The laws have also subjected sex workers to over-policing and opened the door for internet-wide free-speech restrictions, as Vox explains.

RAMADAN MUBARAK: Ramadan begins this week (exactly when varies on the lunar cycle), and Muslims worldwide will fast during the sacred month. Here are some of the ways people in our state will celebrate.

IN MEMORIAM: Legendary Pittsburgh Pirates usher Phil Coyne died last week at the age of 102. Coyne retired in 2018 after 81 seasons and more than 6,000 games with the team, his only hiatus taken to fight in World War II. Coyne's badge and uniform are already in the baseball Hall of Fame.

STOREY TIME: Uniontown named its central square after a community journalist named Walter “Buzz” Storey. That may seem unusual in our current media-trust nadir, but Poynter notes strong community-journalist ties, like Storey's, aren't nearly as bygone as they might seem.

EMPTIED NEST: The removal of a baby owl from a Mount Joy nest for use in a rare, ancient form of hunting has touched off a heated debate within the falconry community and a separate debate about the Pennsylvania rule that permitted the baby's extraction, LancasterOnline reports. 

LIKE, TOTALLY: This eclipse will be better than the last — especially if you're in Erie. Northwestern Pennsylvania is on the superbly named path of totality for the next total eclipse on April 8, 2024. The path will stretch from Texas to Maine. 

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Friday's answer: Organize (also accepted: Agonizer)

Congrats to our weekly winner: Jessica K.

Congrats to our daily winners: Neal W., Susan D., Ben S., Patricia M., Becky C., Mary Ellen T., Sandee J., Beth T., Dennis M., Kim C., Dixie S., Kerri G., Irene R., Patricia R., Christine M., Jim G., Jim B., Elizabeth W., Craig W., Elaine C., Meg M., Marty M., Chris M., Carol D., George S., Michelle T., Bill C., Karen W., Daniel M., Christine M., Scott R., Suzanne S., Dianne K., David W., Anne R., David I., Rick D., Margaret D., Paul H., Al M., Bob R., Kevin H., Mary Kay M., Ron P., Eddy Z., and George W. 
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