by Bonnie Shelton
BOISE — Four more men have joined an Idaho lawsuit filed in federal court against the Boy Scouts of America and the LDS Church.
All eight involved in the suit say they were sexually abused by scoutmasters and that leaders in both the church and the scouts failed to protect them.
John Elliott is the only person who has chosen to be named in the lawsuit.
He says telling his story isn’t easy, but he hopes it will help other victims have the courage to speak up about abuse.
“I’ve only shared this with a handful of people and it’s um, it’s a little scary,” said Elliott.
John was 12 years old when he went to Boy Scout camp in McCall.
While on a three-day survival trip with members of his troop he met scout leader James Schmidt, who was a volunteer through the LDS Church.
“He said ‘no’ you have to sleep in the tent with me,” said Elliott.
Elliott says one night Schmidt told him and some of his friends they had to stay inside because of a threat in the woods.
“What was in the tent was more dangerous than the wolverine supposedly outside the tent,” said Elliott.
Elliott says that night, he and several other boys were sexually abused by Schmidt.
He told his mother who reported the incident in a written letter to the Boy Scouts.
But no report was filed with police and Schmidt was never charged with a crime.
Despite his mother’s letter to the Boy Scouts, Elliot says he now knows Schmidt was allowed to continue volunteering because he saw him with troops years later.
That’s why he’s decided to join an Idaho lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and the LDS Church.
“The LDS Church knew about it, the Boy Scouts of America knew about his issues and still allowed him to lead in scouts, and he continued to molest boys horrifically for the next few years,” said Elliott.
Eight men are currently involved in the lawsuit that names several scout leaders.
At least three of the plaintiffs say they were in troops sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
James Schmidt was a member of the church while living in Idaho.
LDS leaders did not return our calls for comment, but in court documents the church has denied all allegations.
We also reached out to the Boy Scouts for comment.
In a statement, a spokesperson said, “While we can’t comment on the lawsuit, we deeply regret that there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims.”
Meanwhile, Elliott’s attorney Andrew Chasan believes there are more victims in Idaho.
“There will be two more joining. I expect more people to come forward,” said Chasan.
James Schmidt was convicted of sexual abuse in another case in Idaho. He was found guilty of sexually abusing a 10-year-old scout in 1983.
Schmidt’s affiliation with the Ore-Ida Boy Scout Council was finally terminated after he was charged in that case.
He was also convicted of sexual abuse in Maryland in 1996.
According to the Maryland Department of Public Safety, Schmidt is registered as a level three sex offender.
Elliott says he hopes this lawsuit will lead to changes in the way the Boy Scouts and the LDS Church handle accusations of abuse.
Chasan says this case could take years to complete.
All of the men involved are asking for damages for the physical and emotional abuse they say they’ve suffered.