A central Minnesota summer horse camp for children is the subject of a lawsuit after a longtime counselor was sentenced to prison for child pornography.
The victim, identified as Doe 600, said she was sexually abused from 2015 to 2016 by Scott Fortier, a convicted child pornographer and longtime camp counselor at Circle R Ranch in Long Prairie. In the suit, Doe 600 said she brought the suit now because she wants the ranch held accountable for allowing so many girls to be sexually abused by Fortier for so many years, and to encourage other survivors to come forward and share their stories.
Fortier is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for a 2018 child pornography conviction involving abuse of Doe 600 and another minor camper he met at the ranch.
In January 2018, Fortier was convicted by a federal jury of producing and possessing child pornography after a child reported that Fortier provided her and another girl alcohol and then sexually assaulted them. Fortier, who was 38 years old at the time, recorded the sexual assaults on his phone.
Numerous former campers at Circle R Ranch provided statements at his sentencing hearing describing years of sexual assaults and rapes by the former camp counselor. Before sentencing Fortier, the federal judge described him and the girls at Circle R Ranch as "a wolf let loose in a field of sheep," said attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents Doe 600.
He said that given Fortier's predatory ways, Circle R Ranch's granting him continued and almost unlimited access to vulnerable young girls for so many years is terrifying.
"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," said Anderson.
After Fortier's 2018 arrest, investigators discovered hundreds of sexually explicit images and videos of minors on his phone and other devices, including images of prepubescent girls engaged in sexual conduct. Fortier admitted at his trial that he collected sexually explicit photographs of girls from Circle R Ranch. He also testified under oath that with regard to his sexual assault of minors, such 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."
Circle R Ranch has been in operation for 49 years. Fortier first attended Circle R Ranch in the 1980s as a camper, and eventually worked there as a junior counselor and counselor, said Anderson. Fortier continued to volunteer at the camp until shortly before his arrest in 2018.