Justice

Woman raped in public when she was 14 awarded $1 billion in damages

Hope Cheston (YouTube)

A Georgia woman who was raped by an armed security guard on a picnic table outside her friend’s apartment complex when she was just 14 has been awarded $1 billion in compensatory damages by jurors in a civil lawsuit against the security company that employed her rapist. Hope Cheston, now 20, was attending a friend’s birthday party in Jonesboro when she was subjected to the brazen attack, which she said forever altered her.

“Knowing that just one encounter can change your life forever is terrifying,” said Cheston.

Her rapist, Brandon Lamar Zachary, 28, is now serving a 20-year prison sentence for statutory rape. A judge in a civil lawsuit against Crime Prevention Agency Inc., which employed Zachary, had also found that the company was liable for negligence. In a potentially precedent-setting move, jurors brought in to determine damages in the case ruled that the physical and emotional damages suffered by Cheston were nearly incalculable, awarding her $1 billion in damages. According to, her lawyers, the case marked the largest jury verdict ever awarded in the U.S. for a sexual assault case.

The judge can still reduce the value of the compensation, and the security company itself doesn’t have a billion dollars to pay out. Nonetheless, Cheston’s lawyer said, the result would have far-reaching consequences, even beyond Cheston’s own life.

“A jury, from now on, will know there is no ceiling on the damages that rape causes to a woman,” said lawyer, L. Chris Stewart. “They literally thought a billion dollars was the value of a 14-year-old being raped in public.”

As for Cheston, she is now a sophomore a Fort Valley State University, where she is majoring in social work and volunteers to help the homeless during the summer.

Watch video coverage of the story below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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