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Lawsuit filed against Boy Scouts, Coastal Empire Council after sexual assault allegations

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A lawsuit was filed against the Boy Scouts of America and the Coastal Empire Council claiming a former Boy Scout was the victim of child sex crimes by an assistant scout master.

The lawsuit was filed last fall by a former Boy Scout and involves allegations of a volunteer scout leader befriending 16-year-old Boy Scout and then progressing to pictures being taken of the boy and then claims of molestation taking place.

The lawsuit also alleges the Boy Scouts did nothing to stop it and have no procedures in place to prevent this from happening.

"What are they doing?" asked Savannah attorney Mark Tate. "What policies do they have in place to make sure the man they have put in a position of trust, who they have endorsed and supported, what are they doing to make sure he is not taking advantage of those children."

The lawsuit alleges there was escalation between the boy and assistant scout master, from sexually explicit text messages to nude photos, to sex acts and molestation charges, which lead to the arrest and conviction of Naval officer and former assistant scout master Richard Merrey, Jr. for child molestation.

Merrey was the subject of investigations by the Effingham County Sheriff's Officer, GBI and the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Services.

"This man Merrey would pick up the boy, would take him to do different activities and remain with him long after those activities were over, and these things are not secret," said Tate. "This kid is part of a scout troop. That man is part of a scouting organization. He has to have some kind of accountability. It is unusual circumstances and unusual activity."

Tom Cardiff of the Boy Scouts of America said by phone that the Boy Scouts of America Coastal Empire Council would not comment on the lawsuit, but were disgusted by the situation involving Merrey. Tate said the victim's life has been ruined.

"The man who did this to him is a predator," Tate said. "He's a vicious, lethal predator."

Merrey was arrested and there are investigations into other circumstances he may have been involved in. The GBI and NCIS have released parts of their investigation reports, but Tate said with the release of those documents, they can begin the deposition phase and a trial date could be set for sometime next year.

Merrey is currently serving time in federal prison for child molestation, rape, sexual assault and many other charges.

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