In late February, Aldous \ Walker Attorneys Charla Aldous, Brent Walker, and Caleb Miller prevailed in securing a $32 million jury verdict on behalf of a North Texas woman who had been sexually assaulted in 2012 at the age of 14.
The unanimous verdict, which we profiled on a recent blog post, was a major victory for our client – and it sent a powerful message to abuse and assault victims who seek justice in the legal system: your voice CAN be heard.
Although our client was not identified in the publicity surrounding the case and the decision, because she had been a 14-year-old minor at the time of the assault, she recently made the courageous decision to step forward with her story. On Monday, April 1, 2019, The Dallas Morning News broke that story with a full-feature article describing the case, and our client’s turbulent emotional and legal journey.
Survivor Steps Forward: A Courageous Act
Dallas News’ article notes its customary practice of not naming sexual abuse victims – both for ethical and journalistic reasons, and because the law often provides for confidentiality when victims, especially minors, step forward with their claims. However, our client’s name is mentioned strikingly in the article’s first sentence.
As The News reports, Isabella Fletcher was a 14-year-old ninth-grader at Hebron High School at the time of her assault. A former cheerleader, Isabella had attended a party in nearby Carrollton on the night of September 28, 2012.
During her interview with The News, which took place at a conference table in our firm’s Dallas office, Isabella told her story, which although at times came through tears, was driven by an underlying determination and her admirable, selfless sentiment that by doing so, she could help other victims in similar situations find their own courage to come forward.
The article goes on to describe that fateful night, when Isabella was raped by two high school football players on the wet grass outside of the Carrolton party, and how she was later subjected to a torrent of relentless teen bullying from her peers, who had heard all about it.
In addition to the harrowing details, the article speaks unabashedly of Isabella’s struggles to cope with what happened nearly 7 years ago; her need for counseling, a lawsuit she lost in 2017 against the Lewisville school district after alleging school officials had retaliated against her, her suicide attempt, her slow progress toward a better future.
The News’ article ends by describing just how lost and unimportant Isabella had felt, and how Attorney Aldous has worked so passionately to remind her that she is; likening her to a porcupine – hard one the outside, and fragile within. Weeks after the verdict, Isabella sent Attorney Aldous a gift to express her thanks: a small glass porcupine.
“My parents loved me at a time I didn’t love myself. They loved me enough that it got me through it,” Isabella said. “I feel the same way about Charla. She loved me. She saw my worth when I could not see it.”
What’s left now, she knows, is being able to see it herself.
Ensuring Justice: “A Pinch of Healing.”
The two football players, though found civilly liable by the Denton Jury in February, have never been charged with any crime in connection to the case. Attorney Charla Aldous, however, has encouraged the Denton County District Attorney’s Office to take another look, sending them testimony obtained in the civil case and speaking publicly about the importance of ensuring justice for victims.
Both of the young men have maintained the incident was consensual, though testimony and depositions show they knew Isabella had been severely intoxicated at the time. One of the men, who stated Isabella probably wouldn’t have had sex with them had she been sober, said in his deposition he didn’t feel he did anything wrong, and would act similarly if he encountered another person as drunk as Isabella had been that night.
Statements provided by the young men were a large driving force behind the Denton jury’s decision, and its $25 million in punitive damages, which are intended to punish wrongdoers for egregious acts and deter others from committing similar wrongs. Isabella knows it’s unlikely the two men will ever have the funds to pay the $32 million judgment, but for her, the victory is about more than money:
“It wasn’t the be-all fix all at all. But it was a pinch of healing. I have this recipe for worth I’m trying to cook up for myself; that was a pinch which made it a little better.”
Jurors in the case understood that idea as well. Knowing the “money doesn’t mean a thing” and that Isabella would likely “never see a dime,” as one juror put it, the 12 jury members, after quickly determining fault, focused on damages and an award that seemed and sounded fair.
After awarding the $32M verdict, they also wanted to meet Isabella, who was grateful but understandably overwhelmed. She broke down when she returned to her parent’s car to go home – knowing she’d never be the same. Almost seven years after the incident that started it all, Isabella still struggles, but says she’s ready to seek more intensive therapy, and potentially pursue higher education or a cosmetology degree. She’s still careful to avoid taking on too much too soon.
Aldous \ Walker is proud to have played a part in Isabella’s journey, and our entire team is so very proud of her courage to come forward and share her experience. Our firm is always available to help victims like Isabella, and is just a phone call away. Call (214) 307-6307 or contact us online.