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Church, Boy Scouts respond to abuse lawsuit
Attorneys argue statute of limitations has expired
Fleming Weaver
Fleming Weaver

A former Gainesville Scoutmaster and members of First Baptist Church named in a March civil lawsuit have filed responses, claiming the statute of limitations has been reached and the entities can’t be sued.

Royal Fleming Weaver Jr. is accused of raping Robert William Lawson III during a scouting event in 1985, according to a civil action filed in Fulton County State Court.

Weaver was a former deacon with First Baptist Church, which sponsored Troop 26. Weaver was a scoutmaster for the troop from 1969-1981.

The case has since moved to Cobb County Superior Court, where the Boy Scouts of America are registered.

In its answer filed Friday, First Baptist Church called the complaint “inflammatory and appears to have been carefully framed to garner media attention.”

In 2015, House Bill 17 from the Georgia General Assembly extended the statute of limitation for childhood sexual abuses.

Weaver argues, in his motion to dismiss, that only civil actions for injuries from childhood sexual abuse can be revived under the statute.

“Not one of plaintiff’s charges against Mr. Weaver — battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or fraud — appears in either list of defined criminal acts constituting ‘childhood sexual abuse,’” according to court filings.

Weaver filed a motion to dismiss May 31 “on the grounds that all counts are time-barred by the statute of limitations.”

First Baptist Church and others filing responses wrote similar responses.

“The simple fact is that plaintiff’s complaint was filed a quarter century too late,” according to the church’s filings.

The Hall County District Attorney’s Office investigated Weaver in 1994, when a 38-year-old man told authorities he was molested as a child with the Boy Scouts.

That year District Attorney Lydia Sartain also ruled that the allegations were “barred by the statute of limitations,” as Weaver “admitted that he had sexually abused five victims during the time they were in his Scout troop,” according to an investigative file obtained by The Times.

In his complaint, Lawson alleged that Gene Bobo, an executive with the Northeast Georgia Council, and former pastor Steve Brown had been aware of the allegations and did not inform authorities.

The Boy Scouts of America and the Northeast Georgia Council “expressly denies the allegations that it participated in a ‘cover-up of the abuse.’”

First Baptist Church, the Northeast Georgia Council and the Boy Scouts cited part of the revival statute that says plaintiffs “shall be permitted to file such actions against the individual alleged to have committed such abuse.”

The groups claim it would not apply to an entity such as a church or scouting group.

“The statute, by its terms, does not apply to any defendants who are not alleged to have committed childhood sexual abuse, such as defendants Brown or Bobo,” according to court filings.

Lawson’s complaint seeks a jury trial and to recover damages.