Jury Awards $1.7M to Victim of Sexual Assault on School Bus
Apparently India isn’t the only place where girls are sexually assaulted on buses. As six suspects in the fatal gang rape of a student on a public bus in Delhi stand trial, on this side of the world, a jury in Florida awarded $1.7 million to a girl who was attacked by a ninth grader when she was only 3 1/2 years old.
The girl’s parents sued the Palm Beach County school board.
The name of the victim was not reported in local papers because of her age and the nature of the crime.
The girl, a was left on a school bus alone with 15 year-old J.C. Carter who allegedly raped her on Jan. 16, 2007.
At trial, the school claimed the incident only involved “inappropriate touching” because the teenager did not take off his pants or ejaculate and a medical exam found “no penetration or bruising.”
But the parents’ attorney, Stephan Le Clainche, argued “You don’t have to take your pants off to open your zipper.” A retired school district police detective testified that after watching videotape that recorded the incident, it was obvious that Carter was guilty of more than just fondling the girl.
“That was probably one of the most horrible, disgusting cases I have ever witnessed. He should never have been alone on the bus with that girl,” the detective said.
The bus driver and an aide were fired after the incident.
Carter was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial for sexual battery. He refused to testify at the civil trial asserting his right to remain silent.
The girl, now a fourth grader, was “profoundly traumatized” and requires lifetime medical care as a result, Le Clainche said.
The school board’s attorney, Tom McCausland, also took an aggressive defense, saying the girl, who was a special needs student, doesn’t remember the incident because of “infantile amnesia” and that the girl’s conditions are “the way God made her.”
The parents asked for $3.6 million in medical expenses and compensation, while the school board said $250,000 would be a reasonable award. The jury awarded $1.7 million. But because of state laws that cap payouts by the school board at $100,000, the parents will have to seek special approval through the state legislature in order to collect the jury’s award.
“My daughter finally got justice,” the girl’s mother said. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”