A lady who was raped at the tender age of 14 has been awarded $1 billion in damages by a Georgia jury.
The court awarded an eye-popping $1 billion verdict against a security company after an apartment complex guard was convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl.
Hope Cheston was 14 when, outside a friend’s birthday party in October 2012 in Jonesboro, Georgia, an armed security guard at an apartment complex raped her on a picnic table.
For years, she thought she’d be forgotten like countless other sexual assault victims.
But on Tuesday, jurors in Clayton County, Georgia, awarded her $1 billion in compensatory damages in a lawsuit against Crime Prevention Agency Inc., the security company that employed her rapist. Her lawyers believe it is, by far, the largest jury verdict ever awarded in the United States in a sexual assault case.
Hope Cheston was outside by some picnic tables with her boyfriend during a party in October 2012 when an armed security guard approached, attorney L. Chris Stewart said.
The guard told the boyfriend not to move and raped Cheston, Stewart said. The guard, identified in the lawsuit as Brandon Lamar Zachary, was convicted of statutory rape and is serving a 20-year prison sentence, according to online prison records.
Renatta Cheston-Thornton filed a lawsuit in March 2015 on behalf of her daughter, who was still a minor at the time. The jury on Tuesday handed down the verdict against Crime Prevention Agency, the security company that employed Zachary.
Zachary, who was 22 at the time of the rape, should never have been hired because he wasn’t licensed to be an armed guard, Stewart said.
The judge had already determined the security company was liable, so the jury was only determining damages, Stewart said.
Cheston, now 20, said in an interview Wednesday that her verdict offered a symbolic win for all sexual assault victims.
“My verdict basically shows if you stick with it and do what you need to do to get your justice, there’ll be a brighter end.”