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Camp Fire faces abuse lawsuit

Sat., June 13, 2009

Camper allegedly assaulted girl at event

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a Spokane girl who says she was sexually assaulted while attending a Camp Fire USA event last July at Camp Sweyolakan near Mica Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In the suit, the girl’s mother alleges that a Camp Fire staff member called her to inform her that the girl had been sexually assaulted by a teenage boy camper. The mother went to the camp and collected her daughter, said their attorney, Chad Freebourn.

“As far as legally speaking, nobody on their side is admitting that anything happened,” Freebourn said. “But that’s how my client found out. Obviously, my client wanted her daughter back right away.”

Colene Rubertt, executive director of the Inland Northwest Council of Camp Fire USA, said she was aware that her organization had been served with the lawsuit this week.

“There was an incident report filed back in July with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department,” Rubertt said.

Rubertt said she didn’t know whether any criminal charges were filed in response. “I’m going to assume that since both children are minors, that’s why I have not heard anything from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department,” she said.

Rubertt acknowledged that she feared the suit may hurt summer attendance for Camp Fire events, but she declined further comment. “I really probably can’t comment until legal counsel looks at the paperwork.”

Freebourn said he spoke to a sheriff’s detective who was investigating the case. But he said his phone calls and letters to the Kootenai County prosecutor’s office about whether that office plans to file criminal charges have not been returned.

Barry Black, chief deputy Kootenai County prosecutor, said he was unable to research the case without knowing the name of the victim or suspect. Court records list only those individuals’ initials.

According to the lawsuit, the girl’s mother paid a fee for her daughter to attend a Camp Fire event last July 14 at Camp Sweyolakan.

The mother was assured that her daughter would be placed in “age appropriate quarters and involved in age appropriate activities,” the suit states.

But while attending the event, the girl was sexually assaulted on more than one occasion by the defendant, the suit alleges.

The suit also alleges that prior to the sexual assaults, the girl had reported to Camp Fire staff that the teenage boy was “stalking her and making her feel uncomfortable” and that staff “did not take any action to prevent or protect” the girl.

Freebourn said he is seeking damages against Camp Fire USA to be determined at trial.

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