Woman Who Claims Sexual Assault Wins $3 Million From Former Halliburton Division

Woman Says U.S. Gov. Employee Assaulted Her in Iraq -- Feds Refused to Prosecute

November 20, 2009, 1:31 PM

Nov. 20, 2009 — -- Tracy Barker, who says a U.S. State Department employee sexually assaulted her in Iraq in 2005 has won $2.93 million in arbitration from KBR, the military contracting company that employed her. As ABC News exclusively reported, the federal government had refused to prosecute the man Barker says attacked her, even though the State Department recommended he be charged.

"I'm happy with the award," said Barker. "It's enough to cover some of my injuries."

KBR has challenged the award and wants it modified. "At no time has Ms. Barker's claim of rape ever been confirmed," said Heather Browne, the director of communications, in an e-mail to ABCNews.com.

"I was raped," Barker responded. "KBR knows that and they're wrong about that."

Barker, 38, a mother of five who now lives in Yuma, Ariz., claims that in 2005, State Department employee Ali Mokhtare assaulted her at the company-run camp in Basra, Iraq. She filed suit against KBR and Halliburton in 2007, and then entered private arbitration after a federal judge dismissed the suit. Halliburton officially severed its connection to KBR in April 2007.

One of Barker's responsibilities at the KBR camp in Basra was handling repair orders. According to Barker, on a summer evening in 2005, Mokhtare told Barker his air conditioner needed fixing. When she arrived in his room, Barker alleges, Mokhtare offered her a drink, which she refused.

"He jumped up and grabbed me around the neck and tried to get my shirt off me," Barker told ABC News in 2007.

After struggling with her alleged attacker, she was able to fight him off and reported the incident.

Mokhtare was a diplomatic official in Basra who first came to Iraq as a Farsi translator interviewing detainees.The U.S. Diplomatic Security Service investigated the allegations against Mokhtare and presented the case to the Justice Department for prosecution, but "the case was declined for prosecution," states a document obtained by ABC News.

Investigators also asked that the State Department suspend Mokhtare's security clearance, but according to a handwritten note at the bottom of the document, that request was denied.

Mokhtare denied that he had attempted to rape Barker, but admitted that he had gone too far with her, and signed a statement to that effect, which ABC News obtained. He "admitted that he pulled her vest and shirt" and that he asked Barker, "What do you have behind there?"

Baker: This Is A "Never Ending" Process

Barker sued KBR and former parent company Halliburton in May 2007. Her suit included allegations of rampant sexual harassment at the Basra camp that began as soon as she arrived.

"When I arrived in Basra, there were about five men that worked on the camp for the company I worked for and they were waiting for me," Barker told ABC News in a 2007 interview. "I was told they wanted to see what I look like," she said, "to make sure I was decent looking before they approved my transfer."

A federal judge dismissed her lawsuit in 2008, ruling that she must adhere to the stipulations of her employment contract, requiring that claims against the company be settled out of court and through private arbitration instead.

Barker calls arbitration a "never ending" process and even though she asked for more, is pleased to be receiving $2.93 million.

In her e-mail, KBR's Browne said the company disagrees with the interim ruling and has filed a motion to modify the arbitration award.

"However, the decision validates what KBR has maintained all along; that the arbitration process is truly neutral and works in the best interest of the parties involved," wrote Browne.

Barker's attorney, Michael T. Conway, said he's not surprised that KBR is challenging the award and says they'll "keep on fighting."

A hearing, which has yet to be scheduled, will discuss the motion to reduce the award. Another unscheduled hearing will take up attorneys' fees.

Said Barker, "I think that justice, you know, goes through its own course sometimes, but I think it should take as long as it takes, so long as you get justice."

In September, a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled that a similar lawsuit filed by another ex-contract worker, Jamie Leigh Jones, could go to court instead of arbitration. Like Barker, Jones had signed a contract requiring her to deal with sexual assault allegations through arbitration.

Jones filed suit in Beaumont, Texas in 2007 claiming she was drugged and gang-raped by Halliburton and KBR firefighters on her fourth day on the job at a different Iraq facility, Baghdad's Camp Hope, in 2005.

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