A Portland, Oregon-based law firm specializing in child sexual abuse cases is planning to sue the Indian Health Service after it failed to act on warnings that a doctor was sexually abusing Native American boys in Montana and South Dakota.
Crew Janci LLP has retained two clients from Montana and is in discussion with other possible victims, including those from the Pine Ridge Reservation, said attorney Peter Janci. He said some of the people have been involved in the criminal cases against Stanley Patrick Weber or mentioned in media investigations, while others are speaking out for the first time.
"Their primary goal is to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else," Janci said.
The firm is still deciding which federal court to file in and whether it will only focus on the IHS or also Weber and specific people within the IHS. Weber would have a significant amount of money to pay victims if he receives his government pension, Janci noted.
Weber is currently awaiting trial in Rapid City after being convicted of sexually abusing boys in Montana. He was indicted in 2017 after many people on the Pine Ridge Reservation and Blackfeet Reservation in Montana reported Weber to the IHS or other authorities, but the complaints were either ignored and not investigated, or resulted in an investigation that cleared him of any wrongdoing, a Wall Street Journal/Frontline investigation found.
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Weber's "reign of terror" was only possible "because of systemic failures and problems in the IHS system," Janci said.
Janci said while the criminal cases against Weber and multiple government investigations into the IHS are important, lawsuits are often needed to bring about real change.
"It's only when these types of organizations are held accountable and have to face civil accountability that they get serious about changing their polices," he said.
Janci was part of the team that successfully sued the Boy Scouts of America for child sexual abuse for $19.9 million. The judge ordered the Boy Scouts to release internal files on scout leaders accused of sexual abuse and Janci said he hopes a lawsuit against the IHS can also force the release of new information and documents.
"You can't reform the organization until you understand the full scope of what was caused," he said.