The victim of an alleged sexual assault at Opera nightclub has hired a prominent Atlanta attorney to conduct an independent investigation into the incident.
Attorney Chris Stewart will represent the woman who was allegedly raped inside the Crescent Avenue club in Midtown on Saturday. The woman, who was already streaming her birthday celebration on Facebook Live, captured the attack as it happened and continued to stream the video. Her screams and pleas for help could be heard on the video.
For Stewart, the attack raised the issue of security inside the nightclub.
“How is somebody sexually assaulted in a club right in front of anyone? Security will kick you out if you’re too drunk,” he told the AJC in a phone interview Wednesday. “How did security not walk up to her and not check on her?”
Stewart said there is additional footage of that night that shows the suspect picking the victim up and carrying her into a
“You hear the music die off and her screaming some more,” he said.
Atlanta police received several phone calls Sunday morning reporting the attack, but by the time they arrived at the club the woman was gone.
Opera released a statement Monday saying they have met with police and are cooperating fully with the Atlanta Police Department’s investigation of the incident.
On Wednesday evening, a rally was held outside Opera to draw attention to the case.
“If we don’t stand out here for (the victim), then no one else will,” said Sabrina Peterson, who organized the rally. The crowd drew roughly 30 people.
“We plan to be out here every day until (the suspect) is arrested,” she said.
According to Channel 2 Action News, the woman, who is originally from East St. Louis, Illinois, told police someone put drugs in her drink and then sexually assaulted her on the dance floor.
On Monday, police identified and contacted the man seen in the video, but have not released his name.
The investigation is continuing, but Atlanta police did not have an update on the case Tuesday. Stewart said they are awaiting results from a rape kit and a blood sample completed at a East St. Louis hospital.
Police said Monday the woman is no longer in Georgia but is cooperating with investigators. It is the policy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to not name victims of sexual crimes.
In addition to the trauma of being attacked, Stewart said his client is also traumatized by the online criticism she’s received from those who viewed the sexual assault.
“It’s mind blowing, but it’s something I see all the time: the victims are attacked.”
Stewart and his client are expected to speak publicly on the alleged assault in the coming days.
Stewart most recently represented a woman who won a $1 billion verdict against a security company after an apartment complex guard was convicted of raping her when she was 14. A Clayton County jury made the award in May after the victim filed a civil lawsuit against security company Crime Prevention Agency Inc.
Stewart has also represented families in high-profile police brutality cases, including Walter Scott, a South Carolina man shown in a video being shot by a white police officer. He also represented the family of Alton Sterling, whose killing by Baton Rouge police was captured on cellphone video.
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