Victim gets lawsuit payout years after sexual assault.
Rye City officials agreed to a $3.25 million settlement after a lawsuit filed by a man who was sexually abused in the 1970s at age 7. The settlement was approved by the City Council in its meeting held in late December. The settlement money and an additional $35,000 in legal fees would be paid from the balance of the city’s fund. The legal fees would be paid to the Merson Law Firm, which represented the ex-boy scout victim, an unidentified police officer now living in Connecticut.
The abuser was Rye City fire lieutenant and Boy Scout leader, Elwood Ferris. He would undress and molest the boy at the Milton Firehouse, where he was a lieutenant, and the Durland Scout Center, where he was the caretaker. The lawsuit alleges that he not only inappropriately touched the victim, but took naked pictures of him and punished and intimidated him by locking him in a crawlspace. Rye City’s former fire chief was also accused of watching Elwood Ferris molest the victim but taking no actions to prevent the act. The boy was only one of his victims, as indicated by the police statements taken following the investigation into the case back in 1973.
The affidavits included in the lawsuits from volunteer firefighters and city employees attest to statements that accuse Ferris of behaving inappropriately with the boys that visited him at the firehouse back in 1972. These statements were made to the Rye Police in 1973 when the police found the plaintiff’s and other ex-boy scout victims’ naked pictures in Ferris’ locker at the Milton Firehouse.
When interviewed, Ferris denied sodomizing the boy. However, he admitted to fondling the the ex-boy scout multiple times while both were naked, and paying him 50 cents each time after the act. Later, in 1973, Ferries was indicted on sex abuse and child endangerment charges. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted first-degree sexual abuse and was sentenced to probation.
The Boy Scouts of America added his name to the ineligible volunteer file. Ferris passed away two years later in 1975 at the age of 55.
Part of the city’s defense against the lawsuit was that the officials had no prior knowledge that Ferris engaged in deviant acts with minors. Additionally, the city filed a third-party claim accusing the Boy Scouts of America and its Westchester-Putnam affiliate of negligence in hiring and supervising the leader.
The Merson Law Firm filed the lawsuit under the State Child Victims Act in 2020. The act allows for those who were sexually abused as minors to sue and seek justice well after their statutes of limitation expire. Previously, they were not able to receive justice for cases decades old. Since the introduction of the act, there have been more than 10,800 similar cases of alleged sexual abuse filed between 2019 and 2021. Of the many lawsuits filed, this is one of the few that has been settled conclusively, which is a small win for all the victims of such crimes.