US woman loses Iraq rape case

2011-07-09 10:30

Houston - A jury on Friday rejected claims against military contractor KBR Inc by a Texas woman who said she was drugged and raped while working in Iraq.

A federal court jury returned its verdict after starting deliberations on Thursday in the case of Jamie Leigh Jones.

Jones, 26, said she was raped in 2005 while working for KBR at Camp Hope, Baghdad. She sued KBR, its former parent Halliburton Co, and a former KBR fire fighter, Charles Bortz, whom she identified as one of her rapists. The Houston-based companies and Bortz denied her allegations.

The alleged sexual assault was investigated by authorities but no criminal charges were filed.

Jurors rejected claims that Jones was raped and also her fraud claim against KBR. They agreed with Bortz, who said the sex was consensual.

"We're very pleased with the verdict," said Daniel Hedges, an attorney for KBR.

Jones was sobbing in the courtroom after the verdict was announced.

Jones' attorney had asked jurors to award her as much as five percent of KBR's net worth in actual or punitive damages. That would be more than $114m, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Attorney Ron Estefan, in his closing arguments, accused KBR of neglecting to enforce its policies against sexual harassment for years by its contract workers in Iraq. The neglect facilitated Jones' rape, he said.

Attorneys for Bortz and the companies argued Jones concocted her story out of fear of gossip among co-workers at the camp.

Jones testified she was drugged and then raped by a group of KBR firefighters. She said Bortz was in her room the next morning. During four days of testimony, she told jurors she has no memory of what happened because she believed she was drugged with Rohypnol, known as the "date rape drug", just before she was sexually assaulted.

The Associated Press usually doesn't identify people alleging sexual assault, but Jones' face and name have been in media reports and she has promoted her case on her own website.

Bortz's attorney tried to show that after the alleged rape, Jones did not appear to act like she had been attacked but instead went to work as normal, joked around and talked about camp gossip. Bortz no longer works for KBR.

Joanne Vorpahl, one of KBR's attorneys, tried to portray Jones to jurors as someone with a history of being dishonest on resumes and job applications, including not disclosing in a medical questionnaire she filled out before leaving for Iraq that she had been treated in prior years for various things, including depression, dizziness and kidney and bladder problems. Jones said those were simply mistakes and she never intended to be dishonest.

Jones also accused KBR officials of locking her in a trailer after she told them about the rape and not letting her call her family. She testified she's been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, takes medications for anxiety and had to have reconstructive surgery for her breasts, which were disfigured in her attack.

KBR and Halliburton, which split in 2007, were unsuccessful in having Jones' case settled through arbitration as stipulated in her contract.

Due in part to Jones' case, federal lawmakers in 2009 approved a measure prohibiting contractors and subcontractors that receive $1m in funds from the Department of Defence from requiring employees to resolve sexual assault allegations and other claims through arbitration.

  • meelo - 2011-07-09 15:14

    lol making headlines of isolated cases, im not saying it doesn't happen. But lets be fair how many rapes occur in the States daily and we hear nothing of that

      Mishka - 2011-07-10 06:12

      How many rapes in South Africa we hear nothing about?

  • Keir - 2011-07-10 16:16

    The verdict was not a surprise to me in the end, given how much came out against this woman's story. In the beginning I was fully in support of her, as I despise and distrust Halliburton. However, such were the inconsistencies and deliberate lies she told that I have to admit that this company suffered a grave injustice. Consider the fact that Ms. Jones's planned book, 'The Jamie Leigh Story: How my Rape in Iraq and Cover-up Made Me a Crusader for Justice' for which she sold the film rights in 2008, was the subject of interest to the defence lawyers who Jones refused to provide as she claimed it would diminish its value. In fact, her own lawyers filed a motion declaring that it was actually a work of fiction. As today's article in Mother Jones (no relation) puts it: "At the same time Jones was telling therapists and psychiatrists that she was virtually disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder and could not work, leave the house, drive, or have meaningful relationships with men, she has completed three college degrees, including an MBA; gotten married; had two babies; worked as a teacher and now as a part-time college professor; testified repeatedly before Congress; gone on TV; appeared in a documentary; and started a foundation to support women working as contractors overseas. It's not the résumé of someone as paralysed by trauma as Jones has claimed to various therapists and psychologists."

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