Smith, 80, served as the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 127 in Chambersburg from 1966 to 1991.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Wednesday to permanently seal a grand jury report about an investigation into allegations sexual abuse against Charles Quinton “C.Q.” Smith, who served as scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 127 in Chambersburg from 1966 to 1991.
In an 11-page opinion, Justice Max Baer wrote that while he believed that the investigating grand jury crafted the report “in a good faith effort to effectuate justice,” the document itself ran counter to the Grand Jury Act. The law requires that these reports relate to organized crime or public corruption or propose recommendations for legislative, executive or administrative action that’s in the public interest.
When the recommendations in the report are looked at in context, Baer said, it’s clear that they’re not focused on wide-ranging action. Instead, he said, the suggestions are directed at punishing a specific individual for “alleged criminal conduct for which the person cannot be tried” and providing “catharsis to the victims of these alleged crimes.”
“To be clear, that is not to say that the public does not have some generalized interest in governmental action that brings healing to victims of unspeakable use,” Baer said. “However, it is not ‘in the public interest,’ as contemplated by the Act, to utilize an investigating grand jury report to mete out punishment or provide relief for specific victims of unproven, albeit serious, crimes when traditional means of bringing an individual justice – e.g., criminal prosecution – are otherwise unavailable.”
Baer said it’s important to protect those who have been publicly accused but not charged with crimes from “the release of unduly prejudicial information.”
Justice Christine Donahue wrote a concurring opinion.
She said she wanted to express her concern that the majority opinion could be construed to mean that investigating grand juries are limited to looking into organized crime or public corruption.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News investigation revealed that Smith, 80, was the subject of a grand jury inquiry into allegations of decades of sexual abuse. Ten men have stated that he abused them or engaged in some other form of misconduct, including providing alcohol to minors.
Smith testified before the grand jury. Though his testimony isn’t available, a judge’s opinion notes that he himself “estimated the number of victims of his abuse to be 16 to 18.”
The statute of limitations has expired, and Smith cannot be criminally charged. He’s only referred to by his initials, C.S., in court records.
Then-Franklin County President Judge Carol L. Van Horn ordered the public release of the report. But Smith’s attorneys then asked the state Supreme Court to permanently seal the document — or, at a minimum, to redact their client’s name.
In an interview, Smith denied the allegations. He described the conduct for which he was accused as “lies, innuendos, exaggerations.”
When reached about the decision, Smith said he was pleased that the court sided with him.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “It certainly is good news.”
Brian Platt and Stephanie Cesare, Smith’s attorneys, could not be reached.
In an email, Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal said, “This case was always about seeking justice for the victims. We respect today’s decision but are disappointed.”
Geof Lambert, who says that Smith sexually abused him in the 1970s, said he didn’t have a strong opinion about the decision. He described the ruling as a “footnote to everything.”
“In my mind, the facts are already out there,” said Lambert, who added that people now know about what happened. “It’s in black and white. It’s going to live forever.”
He said he respected the district attorney’s efforts “to get a handle on the situation.”
Lambert said he hopes, for the sake of other people, that the statute of limitations for sexual abuse are changed in Pennsylvania.
The justices seemed skeptical about releasing the report during oral arguments last September.
But the reaction to the investigative reporting was swift.
The Boy Scouts of America banned Smith from all future participation in scouting.
Totem Pole Playhouse and the Capitol Theatre removed public displays with his name and likeness on them. The Rotary Club of Chambersburg terminated his membership and revoked all past honors. And a volunteer committee stripped him of his title as 2011 Mike Waters Chambersburg Citizen of the Year.
Contact Dylan Segelbaum at 717-771-2102.
Read or Share this story: https://www.publicopiniononline.com/story/news/2020/01/22/pennsylvania-supreme-court-unanimously-votes-against-releasing-grand-jury-report-c-q-smith/4540923002/