A Black law firm made history this week when a jury awarded $1 billion in damages to a victim of rape. The Tuesday verdict in the case of Hope Cheston set a national record for a pay out from a rape case, Chris Stewart, of Stewart, Seay & Felton Trial Attorneys, LLC, told NewsOne exclusively.
“There is no ceiling on the value of a woman who has been raped. Period. Just because you don’t see the scars doesn’t mean she’s healed,” said Stewart, who handled the case.
On October 14, 2012, 14-year-old Cheston was at Pointe South apartments in Clayton County, Georgia, for a birthday party and sleepover. As the children were outside playing, a 22-year-old security guard named Brandon Lamar Zachary raped Cheston in a picnic area in front of another child. After the assault, Cheston was in shock, barely speaking and her mother was called. Cheston told her mother she was assaulted and the police were contacted, leading to Zachary’s arrest for the assault. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Almost six years after the assault, Stewart secured the historic verdict.
“This verdict stands for the value of victims of rape and sends a message to those responsible,” Stewarts said. “We pay hundreds of millions of dollars to athletes. Social media apps are worth billions, yet rape isn’t.”
Cheston will not be paid the $1 billion because the defendant’s net worth is not nearly that much. However, Stewart explained, “I don’t care if we ever recover a dime, it’s what it stands for.”
Documents from Case-Metrix.com provided by Stewart, who has also represented the high-profile cases of Walter Scott and Alton Sterling, confirm Cheston’s decision was the largest monetary jury verdict for rape in the nation’s history. Stewart has also been representing Desmond Marrow, the former NFL player who was the apparent victim of police brutality when he was arrested over a case of mistaken identity in December.
Black women and girls are sexually assaulted disproportionately higher than white women and girls. According to Black Women’s Blueprint, 60 percent of Black girls experience sexual assault by the time they are 18 years old. For every Black woman who reports sexual assault, there are at least 15 who do not report it.
The lives of women have not been valued—and the lives of Black women have been valued even less. This historic jury verdict hopefully symbolizes a change in how assault is viewed in America, even if there is a president in office who openly admitted to assaulting women.