A rape victim was awarded a $1 billion settlement verdict Tuesday by a Clayton County jury in a civil lawsuit, according to court documents.
Hope Cheston, who is now 20 years old, sued a security company whose employee, Brandon Lamar Zachary, was convicted of rape and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The rape occurred in October 2012 when Cheston was 14.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s policy is to not name rape victims, but Cheston has chosen to speak out after the verdict.
“Sexual assault is sexual assault,” Cheston said at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s not right, and it needs to be punished.”
She said the verdict was a pleasant surprise that validates her struggles and emotional pain.
“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 said.
She originally filed the civil suit against the apartment complex, HACC Pointe South Inc., the property management company, Hammond Residential Group, Inc., and the security company, Crime Prevention Agency Inc.
HACC Pointe South Inc. and Hammond Residential Group Inc. were eventually dismissed from the suit.
The State Court of Clayton County ruled in Cheston’s favor against the security company, handing her the huge settlement, according to a statement from her attorney.
“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 a subsequent lawsuit.
“You can’t change names or try to hide from your responsibility,” Stewart said.
Zachary, who is now 28, was arrested on charges of rape, statutory rape and child molestation, according to the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.
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