Jury awards $1bn to woman raped as a teen

A US jury has awarded $1bn (£750m) in damages to a woman who was raped by an armed security guard when she was 14. Hope Cheston, who chose to...

A US jury has awarded $1bn (£750m) in damages to a woman who was raped by an armed security guard when she was 14.

Hope Cheston, who chose to be named, had her mother file the lawsuit on her behalf in 2015, and says the verdict is a symbolic win for survivors.

Her lawyers say it is the largest jury verdict awarded in a sexual assault case in the US.

The security firm is not worth $1bn and the judge may reduce the award so any final settlement figure is unclear.
Ms Cheston, now 20, told the New York Times the verdict shows victims can get justice.

“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,” Ms Cheston said.

Her rapist, 28-year-old Brandon Lamar Zachary, has been serving a 20-year prison sentence for statutory rape since 2016, according to prison records.

In 2012, Ms Cheston was at a friend’s birthday party in Jonesboro, Georgia, with her boyfriend when the armed guard approached her, told her boyfriend not to move, and raped her on a picnic table.
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The civil lawsuit, filed by Ms Cheston’s mother, Renetta Cheston-Thorton, accused Crime Prevention Agency, the security company that hired Zachary, of negligence in training and failing to safeguard a minor.

The judge ruled against the company, and the jury decided upon the $1bn damages on Tuesday.

After the verdict, several jurors hugged Ms Cheston.

“A jury, from now on, will know there is no ceiling on the damages that rape causes to a woman,” her lawyer, L Chris Stewart, told the Times.

“They literally thought a billion dollars was the value of a 14-year-old being raped in public.”

Ms Cheston is currently studying social work at Fort Valley State University.

She told the Associated Press: “This shows that people do care about the worth of a woman.”

Most rape victims get far lower settlements from US juries.

According to the Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey, there are an average of 321,500 rape and sexual assault victims each year in the US.
US President Donald Trump has pardoned boxing’s first black heavyweight champ, who was convicted in 1913 of taking his white girlfriend across state lines.

Joined in the Oval Office by actor Sylvester Stallone and boxer Lennox Lewis, Mr Trump said the move corrected a historic US wrong to Jack Johnson.

Johnson was arrested in 1912 with Lucille Cameron, a white woman who would later become his wife.

He was world heavyweight title holder from 1908 until 1915.

Mr Trump shook hands with current and former heavyweight champions at the White House during the announcement of the full pardon on Thursday.
Linda Bell Haywood, the maternal great-great niece of Jack Johnson, was also present.

What did Trump say?

“I’ve issued an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon posthumously to Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion of the world,” Mr Trump said.

“He served 10 months for what many view as a racially motivated injustice.”

Mr Trump had said he was considering pardoning Johnson back in April, after Mr Stallone brought the case to his attention.

“Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson,” Mr Trump said last month on Twitter.

“His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial.”
Who was Jack Johnson?

Born in Galveston, Texas, to former slaves he became the first African American to win the world heavyweight crown in 1908, defeating Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia.

He held on to that title until 1915 when Jess Willard, a white cowboy from Kansas, took the title with a knockout in the 26th round in Havana, Cuba.

In 1910, when Johnson defeated “great white hope” Jim Jeffries in the so-called Fight of the Century in Reno, Nevada, race riots erupted across the nation, claiming more than 20 lives.

Johnson’s story was dramatised in Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Great White Hope, starring James Earl Jones in 1969.

Why was he arrested?

He was charged with violating the 1910 Mann Act, a so-called moral purity law that made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.

US prosecutors argued that Johnson’s relationship with Lucille Cameron was a “crime against nature”, and an all-white jury took less than two hours to convict him.

His career in ruins, Johnson skipped bail and fled to Europe to live in exile.

He spent years fighting overseas before surrendering to US authorities in 1920. He served 10 months in prison.

In 1946, he died in a car crash.

 

Source: BBC News 

 Featured Image: Getty Images 

 Inset Image: AP Photo/File 

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