Federal jury: No rape, no fraud in KBR case

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by khou.com & The Associated Press

khou.com

Posted on July 8, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 8 at 6:17 PM

HOUSTON – A federal jury on Friday ruled that a woman who sued KBR over an alleged sexual assault in Iraq was not raped, and the company did not commit fraud.

Jamie Leigh Jones sued KBR, its Houston-based former parent company Halliburton and KBR firefighter Charles Bortz, who she claimed led an attack on her while she worked for KBR at Camp Hope in Baghdad in 2005.

Jones’ attorney, Ron Estefan, told jurors during closing arguments that KBR had neglected to enforce its policies against sexual harassment by its contract workers in Iraq, which facilitated Jones’ rape.

Estefan asked the jury to award his client as much as 5 percent of KBR’s net worth in actual or punitive damages, which would have been more than $114 million.

"It’s a lot of money, but it’s a lot of harm that was caused to her," he told jurors.

Jurors began their deliberations in Houston on Thursday, but in the end, they ruled against Jones.

She left the courtroom in tears after the verdict was read. Jones said she was "shocked and devastated" by the jury’s decision.

She told The Associated Press the civil trial wasn’t a fair fight, saying she felt she lost because the jury wasn’t allowed to hear details about Bortz’s past.

Bortz claimed he had consensual sex with Jones. He was not criminally charged and has filed a countersuit against her.

Attorneys for Bortz and the company claimed that Jones made up the story about being drugged and raped out of fear of gossip among co-workers at the camp.

"I know it might make a better manuscript ... to tell the story that Jamie was gang-raped and locked in a shipping container, but I am asking you to reject that fiction," defense attorney Joanne Vorpahl told jurors.

Bortz’s attorney, Andrew T. McKinney, added: "The beauty of having no memory is that you don’t have to explain what you did and why you did it."

Bortz said he wasn’t disciplined by the company for the alleged rape and that he quit KBR in May 2006, 10 months after Jones’ allegations surfaced.

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