After a Missouri judge allowed former Boy Scout leader and convicted of child sexual abuser to serve probation instead of prison, the now-adult victim is taking the case one step further — to civil court.
Last year, prosecutors in Springfield charged Scott Wortman with seventeen felony counts, including multiple charges of statutory sodomy, after his victim reported the abuse to police in 2018. After announcing the charges, the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office opposed Wortman’s release on bond, writing that he had shown “exceptionally predatory behavior” while grooming and inditimiating his victim into silence.
At the time the abuse began in 2012, Wortman, a volunteer with the title of Assistant Scoutmaster, was 30 years old.
The new lawsuit was transferred to federal court last week. In court filings, the victim — who is referred to by the pseudonym I.G. — alleges that Wortman’s behavior included at least one incident of physical abuse. He claimed the the sexual abuse lasted roughly four years, starting when the victim was a fourteen-year-old high school freshman and member of a scout troop in the Ozark Trails Council.
Wortman’s arrest in February 2019 drew local news coverage and a strong reaction from the Ozark Trails Council; one day after the story broke, the council announced that it had removed Wortman from his position, writing in a statement, “The behavior in these allegations is reprehensible and runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands.”
Today Worton is a registered sex offender. However, his address is not in a prison, but in a small town in southwest Missouri.
That’s because Worton’s case underwent a drastic shift in the months after his charges became public. Although unreported until now, the host of felony counts pending against Wortman were eventually winnowed to just two charges, for endangering welfare of a child and statutory sodomy. On those charges, Wortman pleaded guilty late last year.
During a sentencing hearing last month, Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier sentenced Wortman to the maximum possible punishment, seven years incarceration for each charge, which would be served back-to-back for a total of fourteen years in prison — but at the same hearing, the judge moved to suspend Wortman’s prison time for five years probation.
The new lawsuit adds few concrete details to Wortman’s abuses, which were first described in the probable cause document Springfield police submitted to local prosecutors in 2019; a detective wrote that the victim had described Wortman’s “uneasy” interest in the teen, which escalated from aggressive texting, groping and trips to Wortman’s home during lunch breaks.
In one incident, the victim told police that Wortman had blindfolded him and attempted to penetrate him; when the victim attempted to escape, Wortman became upset and told I.G. that “He was actually testing [the victim’s] trust” and began “throwing objects around his residence and yelling.”
In his statements to police, the victim said years after the abuse, in 2019, he confronted Wortman about the incidents. According to the victim, Wortman allegedly acknowledged that “he didn’t really think it was wrong when it happened but that was probably something that should have stopped sooner” and that “it was one of those things that he wanted to try.”
When police interrogated Wortman in late February 2019, the scout leader claimed that he had “latched” onto the teen and “considered him to be his best friend.” However, the report continued, Wortman “did not admit that any sexual contact occurred between the two of them.”
The victim’s lawsuit lists Wortman, the Ozark Trails Council and the Boy Scouts of America as defendants, and seeks unspecified damages on multiple counts of abuse, negligence and emotional distress. The suit alleges that the inappropriate relationship between scout and scout leader were known to at least two of Wortman’s colleagues, who allegedly “suspected that Plaintiff was being abused by Wortman, yet failed to report or otherwise prevent the abuse.”
This sort of lawsuit is hardly rare. Coincidentally, less than two days after Wortman pleaded guilty, the The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy, as it currently faces hundreds — and potentially thousands — of abuse claims. The bankruptcy filing has led to some suits becoming effectively frozen as the organization undertakes a financial restructuring.
However, while the national organization may be able to shield some of its assets, a February 18 statement clarified that “local councils” — such as the Ozark Trails Council — “have not filed for bankruptcy. They are legally separate, distinct and financially independent from the national organization.”
As for Wortman, he is now Missouri’s sex offender registry as a “Tier 3” sex offender, which requires a lifetime of check-ins with authorities every 90 days, and violations of his registry requirements could send him back to prison. According to the online registry, his work address is connected to an office building in Springfield.
The situation is far from what prosecutors sought during the criminal case. In an interview with the RFT, Greene County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Chapman declined to comment directly on the judge’s decision to suspend Wortman’s prison term. He said that he admired the victim’s bravery in speaking out about the abuse.
“Coming forward at any time is very difficult to do, and it’s especially difficult, oftentimes for young males,” Chapman noted. “I was very impressed with his courage to come forward and help us at least to try to get some justice.”