"A jury, from now on, will know there is no ceiling on the damages that rape causes to a woman," attorney L. Chris Stewart said Wednesday after a jury awarded his client $1 billion in a civil case. Hope Cheston, now 20, was 14 years old when she was raped by armed security guard Brandon Zachary on a picnic table outside a friend's birthday party in Jonesboro, Ga. Jurors in Clayton County awarded her the verdict against his employer, Crime Prevention Agency Inc., reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Zachary, 28, began serving a 20-year sentence for the October 2012 rape in 2016.
Cheston says her personality changed after the attack and she became "very shut off." "Sexual assault is sexual assault," she says. "It's not right and it needs to be punished." She is a sophomore at Fort Valley State University and plans to continue her studies. It's not clear how much of the award she will receive, since the security firm isn't worth $1 billion. Cheston says she thought her case would be "pushed under the rug" and she now wants her story to give hope to others. "My verdict basically shows if you stick with it and do what you need to do to get your justice, there'll be a brighter end," she says. The New York Times reports that the verdict is believed to be the largest ever awarded in a sexual assault case.