Girl's family lauds court award in sex-assault case

March 14, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

A $1.7 million court judgment against a man accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old Northwest Baltimore girl while on a church trip in 1991 has given the girl and her family a sense that justice may finally have been done.

"It gave me a little bit of relief," said the girl, who is now 16.

But she added, "He's still walking the streets. I still have problems."

A judge ruled earlier this month that Frank D. Scroggins must pay $700,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages for assaulting the girl and for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

According to a civil suit and the girl's lawyer, Mr. Scroggins was the coach of a youth basketball team from Greater St. John's Baptist Church in Dundalk when he sexually assaulted the girl at a basketball tournament in upstate New York.

She was a cheerleader for a team from Concord Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore.

Teams from both churches were playing in a July 1991 tournament at Word of Life Island, a religious retreat at Schroon Lake, N.Y., according to the complaint.

The Sun does not name children who have been sexually abused, and the names of the girl's parents were withheld to protect her privacy.

Mr. Scroggins, 23, of Dundalk said that the sex he had with the girl was consensual.

"I didn't know how old she was," he said. "She didn't look her age."

The court file shows that the girl subsequently suffered from depression and, in 1992, attempted to kill herself.

Mr. Scroggins said he was placed on probation for a year after being charged with statutory rape in New York.

The family, outraged at the outcome of the criminal proceedings, sued him in Baltimore Circuit Court and won a default judgment in September. Mr. Scroggins said he did not know he was required to respond and said he could not afford a lawyer.

The default judgment led to last week's court hearing to determine the amount of damages. Judge Thomas E. Noel set the amount -- and gave Mr. Scroggins, who attended this hearing, a tongue-lashing.

"They got from Judge Noel more justice than they ever dreamed they'd get from this whole thing," said attorney Steven L. Bunoski, who along with lawyer Ronald M. Cherry represented the family in the suit.

"Judge Noel's demeanor and civility with their daughter, No. 1, and the statements he made during his verdict meant more than anything else to them."

Said the girl's father: "We got some personal satisfaction knowing [Mr. Scroggins] was reprimanded for what he did."

Attempts to reach officials from the two churches for comment were unsuccessful.

Mr. Scroggins said he is an accounting student and cannot pay the judgment. He said he works as a parking lot attendant, making $5 an hour.

Mr. Bunoski said he will try to collect as much as he can, garnishing Mr. Scroggins' wages if necessary.

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