Sept. 30, 2011 — -- The same court that rejected Jamie Leigh Jones' claims against her former employer that she was drugged and raped, has ordered her to pay $145,000 in court costs this week.
Jones claimed she was raped in July 2005 in Baghdad while she was employed for military contractor Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) and filed a suit in 2007. On July 8 this year, a jury verdict rejected her claim against KBR and employee Charles Boartz that she was drugged and raped by several KBR firefighters.
Judge Keith Ellison of the U.S. district court in Houston awarded KBR's attorneys $145,000 in court costs for the trial, much less than the $2 million KBR's attorneys requested in fees in a suit last month, reported the Houston Chronicle.
"Because the KBR defendants' costs fall within the recoverable costs enumerated in [statute], the court finds that KBR's application for costs must be granted," Ellison said.
Jones did not return a request for comment.
Jones was working her fourth day on the job in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was assaulted by seven U.S. contractors and held captive by two KBR guards in a shipping container. Jones is one of a group of women who claim they were harassed or assaulted while working for KBR and former parent company Halliburton in Iraq.
Jones testified in June that she was "scared to death" the morning after she was attacked, and said she was held against her will without food or water by KBR officials when she reported the alleged assault. "As I'm banging on the door, I say, 'I need to get out of here. I need to contact my dad,'" Jones said.
Jones said she woke up that morning with no memory of what had happened after a night of drinking, but then began "putting the pieces together."
"I knew I had been raped," she said.
Bortz, who was never criminally charged, has denied raping Jones, and countersued. His attorney questioned her about her sexual history and suggested that her liaison with Bortz was consensual. He also said she had offered differing versions of how the alleged rape occurred. Jones denied that the sex was consensual.
In a statement, KBR said, "Because our fees were substantial in defense of this case, and as the jury found Jones' claims to be without merit, we appropriately exercised our rights to recover our costs, as we would do in any such case where the remedy was available."
"Since 2005, KBR was subjected to a continuing series of lies perpetuated by Jones in front of Congress, in the media and to any audience wishing to lend an ear to this story. The outcome of the jury trial as judged by her peers is the same result that the State Department got in the 2005; that the Justice Department found in 2008. We are deeply gratified that the justice system has worked."
Brenda Smith, law professor at American University, said Ellison had to grant at least the minimum to KBR's attorneys, which were court costs. Attorneys pay those fees to the court for phone and filing services and other facilities costs. Then attorneys pass those onto clients, which are paid by the losing party. Ellison ruled that the suit was not frivolous, meaning Jones did not have to pay the attorney fees for KBR.
Jones' contract with her employer initially indicated she must resolve her dispute in arbitration and not through the court system. But she successfully pursued her case in court and inspired the Arbitration Fairness Act, signed into law in 2009.
"Even though the ultimate result for her as the plaintiff in the case wasn't a win there were so many things she was able to do in terms of legislation," Smith said.
"I think that is actually a really important victory there. That may not have an impact for her but certainly will have an impact for other women," she said. "It's a very disturbing story, but in so many ways very much similar to rape cases in the U.S."
Todd Kelly, Jones' attorney, said in a statement that "it takes a lot of courage to bring a lawsuit against a well-financed corporation like KBR."
He said that the judge ruled that this case was not frivolous was "correct."
"The jury was not convinced that Jamie was telling the truth. That, by the way, does not mean that they decided she was lying. They just didn't credit her more than Bortz," he said.
"I, for one, will go to my grave believing that Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged and raped by, at least, Charles Bortz on the evening of July 27, 2005. For those who would call me a 'greedy' trial lawyer, see my accountant about what this - and all civil trials cost," he said in his statement.
"Jamie, you remain a hero in my eyes. I am humbled that you chose me to stand for you. I am sorry that we did not walk out of that courtroom with justice, but I am proud to have stood by your side fighting for it for five long years," he said.