Minnesota’s Circle R Ranch faces lawsuit following employee’s sexual assault conviction.
Scott Fortier, a counselor at Circle R Ranch horse camp in Minnesota, was sentenced to prison for possession of child pornography. Now, the camp itself is being sued after one of his victims, identified in court papers was Doe 600, who she was repeatedly sexually abused by Fortier from 2015 to 2016, decided to hold the camp accountable. Fortier had been a longtime camp counselor at Circle R in Long Prairie.
In January 2018, Fortier was convicted of producing and possessing child pornography after it was reported that the counselor met a 17-year-old girl and invited her and her 15-year-old friend to his Blaine home in September 2016. He gave them alcohol and used his phone to make several videos of himself having sex with both minors. He is currently serving 25 years behind bars.
Numerous former campers at Circle R Ranch provided statements at Fortier’s sentencing hearing describing years of abuse. Prosecutors introduced statements from the girls and “a number of other victims detailing years of sexual misconduct and rapes committed by Fortier against underage girls at the camp where he worked as a counselor and program director,” indicated a statement submitted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The issue was likened by Judge Patrick Schiltz to “a wolf let loose in a field of sheep,” said attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing Doe 600 in her lawsuit. The counselor was given “continued and almost unlimited access to vulnerable young girls,” he added. “The managers at this camp turned a blind eye to the peril, and a blind eye to the safety of the kids at its camp.”
U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said at sentencing, “Scott Fortier is a serial predator and rapist who victimized underage girls whom he met at a summer camp where he frequented. I am grateful that the court recognized the severity of this type of predatory conduct, and I commend the diligent work of the investigators and prosecutors in bringing this defendant to justice.”
Special FBI agent in Charge Jill Sanborn added that Fortier, who began attending the camp at age 9, “used his position in the camp to prey on his victims and then further victimized them by producing child pornography. We have no greater duty than to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
Investigators reportedly found hundreds of sexually explicit images and videos of minors on Fortier’s phone and other devices, including images of girls as young as 12 engaged in sexual acts. The defendant admitted he collected the photos. He also testified under oath that his behavior “was part of my world in all of the years that I had been involved with people from [Circle R Ranch] and the group of friends that I had and so it wasn’t – it never – it never came up as abnormal to me.”
“Fortier first attended Circle R Ranch in the 1980s as a camper, and eventually worked there as a junior counselor and counselor,” said Anderson.
The horse camp has been in operation for nearly half a century. A statement on the camp’s site indicates, “All staff are well qualified college and high school aged students with the knowledge and skills to assure that each camper is well cared for and receives the most out of his or her stay at the Circle R Ranch.”