A 14-year-old Atlanta girl was raped by an armed security guard and six years later, a jury has now awarded her $1 billion in a lawsuit against the security company.
Hope Cheston, who is now 20 years old, sued the security company whose employee, Brandon Lamar Zachary, was accused of sexually assaulting her.
As a teen, Cheston was helping her boyfriend set up a party at some picnic tables outside an apartment complex when Zachery approached her and told her boyfriend not to move. What ensued was a heinous sexual assault that has haunted her ever since.
Cheston’s mother, Renatta Cheston-Thornton, filed a lawsuit in March 2015 on behalf of her daughter. Tuesday, the jury ruled against Crime Prevention Agency, the security company that employed Zachary.
The courts uncovered Zachary, who was 22 when he raped Cheston, was not licensed to be an armed guard and should have never been hired in the first place.
“Sexual assault is sexual assault,” Cheston said at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s not right, and it needs to be punished.”
She also said she at times questioned if she would ever see justice.
“For the longest (time), I thought it would be pushed under the rug and no longer mattered … but come to find out 12 strangers feel like what I went through and my story and how I feel six years later is worth a billion dollars,” Cheston added.
The judge had already determined the security company was liable, so the jury’s main responsibility was determining damages, Stewart said. As soon as the verdict was read, jurors immediately left the jury box – without waiting for the judge’s permission – to hug Cheston and her mother.
After the State Court of Clayton County made the historic ruling, her attorney pointed out that the jury’s decision made a statement that was bigger than just his client.
“This is a huge victory for women,” Cheston’s attorney, Chris Stewart, said at the news conference.
Stewart said Crime Prevention Agency Inc. has since changed its name to International Security Agency Inc., which he said has prompted another lawsuit.
“You can’t change names or try to hide from your responsibility,” Stewart said.
Zachary was convicted of rape and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
— Natisha Lance (@NatishaLance) May 23, 2018
Want to know what a victim of rape is worth? 1 billion.Record 12 person jury verdict. Juries are saying no to sexual assault and holding companies accountable! My client wants to be a spokesperson against rape. Will we recover all that? No but it’s what it stands for that matters pic.twitter.com/ib9wFWiFOR
— L. Chris Stewart Esq (@chrisstewartesq) May 22, 2018