At 14-years-old, Hope Cheston, suffered one of the most heinous crimes possible. She was brutally raped by a stranger who was working as an armed security guard at an apartment complex in 2012. Now six years later, Cheston was awarded $1 billon in damages by a jury in Clayton County, Georgia. The verdict is the largest monetary verdict for damages in a rape case in U.S. history.
The lawsuit was filed by Cheston’s mother, Renatta Cheston-Thorton, in 2015 on behalf of her daughter. Cheston’s mother had accused the security company of negligence in their training and performance, as well as failure to keep a 14-year-old safe.
The security company, Crime Prevention Agency, Inc., had hired the security guard, Brandon Lamar Zachary, to work at the Pointe South Apartments. After the horrific attack, Zachary was arrested, charged with rape, statutory rape, and child molestation. He was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. The jury’s award shows that the company was directly responsible for the employee they had hired.
After the verdict was read, Cheston thanked the jury for the verdict in her case and said she hopes that her message will help other survivors of sexual violence. She told them, “Sexual assault is sexual assault. It’s not right and it needs to be punished.”
Cheston further said, “For the longest, I just thought it was swept under the rug and that it no longer mattered and that it just is what it is. But come to find out that 12 strangers feel like what I went through and my story and how I feel – after six years – is worth a billion dollars? That is life-changing, history-making. Just beautiful news to know.” Her lawyer, Chris Stewart, called the verdict “one of the biggest victories for women in the United States.”