PORTLAND, Maine — A jury has awarded $4.5 million in damages to a woman whose lawsuit contended she was sexually abused three decades ago by a family friend in Maine.
The federal jury found in favor of 36-year-old Julia Russell on Thursday on one civil count of assault and battery and a second count of infliction of emotional distress.
The defendant, Philip Chenevert, 73, of St. Augustine, Florida, was friends with the victim's family and visited the home weekly. Russell said she was abused by Chenevert when she was about 6 years old.
While The Associated Press doesn’t normally identify victims of sex crimes, Russell allowed her name to be used in the litigation and in news reports, said Taylor Asen, one of Russell’s attorneys.
Two other women who learned of the victim’s case from news reports about her story testified at the trial that they, too, were abused by Chenevert.
The idea that two women who didn’t know Russell and had nothing to gain would testify was a positive outcome along with the vindication of Russell's claims, Asen said. A criminal report has been made, Asen said, and “I hope that what came out of the trial will be useful."
Chenevert categorically denied any abuse, and his attorney told jurors that memories can become clouded over time. His attorney didn't immediately respond to an email Friday.
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