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Civil Suit Opens New Legal Front In Berkeley Sea Scouts Case

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 04, 2009 - 07:02:00 PM

Three young men filed suit Tuesday against the Boy Scouts and their former Berkeley Sea Scouts master, seeking damages for their sexual molestation on board the S.S.S. Farallon. 

Former scoutmaster Eugene Austin Evans is already in prison after entering guilty pleas in July to sexually abusing two of the plaintiffs in the action filed by Oakland attorneys John D. Winer and Alexis McKenna. 

“At the time he was convicted, he admitted in criminal court that the actions had been going on for 30 years,” McKenna said Wednesday afternoon. 

Prosecutors at the time said they had agreed to the plea on only two of the victims to save them and others from the trauma of testifying about their abuse in open court. 

Named as defendants in the civil action in addition to Evans are the Boy Scouts of America, Berkeley Sea Scouts S.S.S. Farallon, the Boy Scouts of America Mt. Diablo Silverado Council and the national Sea Scouts organization. 

The youths are seeking damages on six counts, including: 

• Negligent supervision and management of the Berkeley program and failure to warn the youths and their families of the risks of molestation, 

• Assault. 

• Battery. 

• Sexual harassment by a Scout leader. 

• Intentional infliction of emotion duress. 

• Premises liability, stemming from the allegedly negligent ownership, supervision and management of the ship. 

The 20-page complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court contains detailed allegations about the complaints that led to Evans’ conviction. 

The first of the plaintiffs, identified in the filing only as Roe 1, said he was 13 and an eighth-grader when he entered the program in 2002, and was subjected to abuse for the entire three to four years he belonged to the troop. 

According to the young man’s allegations, Evans began his seduction with talk of masturbation, and would tell the youths, “I’m the skipper. I’m not going to hurt you. You are my best buddy. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.” 

Sexual contact took place inside the ship’s cabin after Evans locked the door and began rubbing the youth’s back, the young man declared. Massage was followed by masturbation and attempted—but never consummated—fellation of the youth, according to the declaration. 

The second youth declared that molestation began a year after he joined the troop in 2002, ending with the scoutmaster masturbating the youth. 

The third youth said he first boarded the ship in early 2001, and he said Evans told him “a story about a guy who lifted a lot of weights in his garage and would let Evans smoke marijuana if he was allowed to perform oral sex on Evans.” 

The youth said Evans had groped his buttocks, but he was able to extricate himself before Evans could proceed further. 

The complaint also alleges that Evans made frequent racist and homophobic jokes, and warned his charges that any complaints could result in the breakup of the troop “and other boys would hate them for ruining the group.” 

“What happens on the boat stays on the boat,” Evans reportedly told the scouts. 

“Evans ran the program with a divide and conquer mentality,” the litigation charges, “turning kids against each other so that he could obtains sexual access to the Scouts that he wanted.” 

The complaint also alleges that Evans “constantly made inappropriate masturbation references to the boys and stocked the ship full of pornography,” allegations a scout had earlier reported to the Daily Planet. 

McKenna said the next step would be to serve the defendants with copies of the suit and then initiate the discovery process to gather evidence. 

While the plaintiffs will be able to subpoena some of the criminal investigative reports assembled for Evans’s prosecution, she said the law requires that names of minors who were victims of sexual crimes must be expunged before the documents are released. 


Sad history 

Evans had rocketed to national prominence once before, when he sued the City of Berkeley after the city stopped allowing the scout ship free berthing rights at the city-owned marina. 

The city acted because the scouts refuse to allow gay members, bringing the organization into violation of city policies that deny free city services to organizations which discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. 

Evans became a hero to conservatives and the religious right when he challenged the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he was handed his final defeat in 2006. 

Despite his conviction in the criminal case, Evans retained a solid core of supporters, with many of them writing letters on his behalf to the court and showing up to support him at the sentencing hearing.