Sunday, May 11, 2008

Did KBR rape Jamie Leigh Jones?

UPDATE: Greetings TBogg/Firedoglake readers. In fact, contrary to what you read there, I am a former employee of The Washington Times (resigned in January) and this post is not about "the bitch obviously had it coming," it's about whether KBR should be held corporately responsible for criminal actions it neither authorized nor condoned. -- RSM

She'll get her day in court:
A Houston woman who says she was gang raped by co-workers at a Halliburton/KBR camp in Baghdad won a major court battle late Friday when a Texas judge ordered that she can bring her case to court instead of forcing her into secretive arbitration proceedings with Halliburton and KBR. . . .
Jones says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
I don't think she's doing the lawsuit to get rich. Her lawyer, yes; herself, no. She'll get hers from the book deal and the movie rights. Excuse my extreme cyncism, but Jamie Leigh Jones' story has got "NYT bestseller/Oscar-winning movie" written all over it.

Gang rape is a crime, and the perpetrators should be punished, but Halliburton didn't rape Jamie Leigh Jones.

Halliburton hired Jones, and also apparently hired her rapists, but gang-rape was not any part of Halliburton's policy. They're in the engineering services business, not the rape business. They don't make a profit from rape, and yet somehow are being held financially liable for the criminal conduct of the persons unknown accused of raping Jones.

There was also an alleged cover-up:
According to her lawsuit, Jones was raped by "several attackers who first drugged her, then repeatedly raped and injured her, both physically and emotionally."
Jones told that an examination by Army doctors showed she had been raped "both vaginally and anally," but that the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.
If, as she alleges, security officers destroyed evidence of the rape, then by all means those security officers should be held accountable, just as the rapists should be held accountable, and whoever imprisoned her in a shipping container should also be held accountable. However, this kind of accountability -- punishing actual wrongdoers -- is not what the Jones lawsuit is about. What this lawsuit is about is a tort lawyer financially raping the stockholders of a major corporation.

The cost of this lawsuit will be borne by stockholders in Halliburton/KBR, stockholders who were not party to the crime, who would never condone such crimes, and who yet are being held accountable for these crimes. How so?
In her lawsuit, Jones' lawyer, Todd Kelly, says KBR and Halliburton created a "boys will be boys" atmosphere at the company barracks which put her and other female employees at great risk.
"I think that men who are there believe that they live without laws," said Kelly. "The last thing she should have expected was for her own people to turn on her."
In other words, it's like the "hostile environment" aspect of sexual harassment case law, the Catch-22 of equal rights. On the one hand, if KBR had refused to hire a woman for Iraq contractor employment, they'd have been guilty of illegal discrimination. On the other hand, they send a 20-year-old blonde into a male-dominated work environment in the middle of a war zone and she gets raped, and the corporation is held liable for the crime.

Did the board of directors approve a "boys will be boys" directive for KBR's Iraq barracks? Which vice-president of KBR signed off on the memeorandum that "created" that "atmosphere"? But the lawyers for Jones know that the jury that hears the case won't think logically. Instead, the jurors will decide that KBR is rich, and the plaintiff is poor, and something bad happened, therefore the company should shell out millions of dollars -- and the tort lawyer will buy himself a new houseboat.

In its own way, this is a legal abuse as bad as the McDonald's coffee lawsuit. I have all the sympathy in the world for a rape victim, but sympathy is not law.

The employees who go to Iraq to work for KBR are all adults. One wonders what policy KBR might have instituted to prevent male-female fraternization in its Iraq barracks without being accused of illegal discrimination.

Given that such fraternization was permitted, the law of large numbers would suggest that among the thousands of men working for KBR in Iraq, some few would be willing to participate in a gang-rape. (She says she was drugged; claims of being dosed with "date-rape drugs" mysteriously proliferate in the era of Jello shots. Note that Jones was below the legal U.S. drinking age at the time of this incident. Don't 20-year-olds ever get just plain-old drunk anymore? What did gang-rapists do before the discovery of Rohypnol?)

While the facts of the legal case remain to be examined, I have a hard time figuring exactly how the rape of Jones results in corporate culpability on the part of KBR. Americans routinely sue their employers for millions, then have the effrontery to complain about the lack of "good jobs."


  1. Vacariously liable:
    Missing rape kit?
    Locking her up in a container?
    Immediage Medivac?
    Rescued by Embassey workers?

    Not liable? Oh right. And if it was your daughter, you'd do nothing?

  2. 'Cause they held her in a shipping container for 24 hrs (for what reason, exactly?) and lost her rape kit? Hmmm......

  3. Since a corporation, unlike a natural person, has no independent will, and no way to act except through the actions of actual human beings, it is of course always possible to say "Corporation X didn't do bad act Y, *people* hired by corporation X did".

    However, the law recognizes that corporations have a standard of care that they must meet. It seems plausible that that standard of care was not met in this case, and a competent court will make that decision based on the facts.

    You may not like the fact that corporations can be liable for the actions of natural persons, but that is the law in the US. I suspect your implicit argument against the very concept of corporate "persons" as a legal fiction would be opposed by (quite literally) every business in America, but you have a right to it, I suppose.

  4. How come there are no comments here? Are you deleting them all, coward?

    Tell me, how many times has KBR/Halliburton authorized torture as you state in your little message at the top of this post to those at TBogg/FireDogLake readers? Huh? How many times?


  5. Nice Post Stacy. Your resignation must have been quite a blow to the Times.

    I noticed that your profile says that you are an "Award-winning columnist". I did a brief google and was unable to find the awards that you have won. What awards did you win?

    (I am sure that there must be at least one. It's one thing to be an idiot. It's another thing entirely to be a lying idiot.)

  6. Sir, your strawman argument is fascinating, but the gist of the problem isn't that KBR was responsible for the rape. I don't think anyone is arguing that.

    KBR is, however, allegedly responsible for other crimes such as kidnapping and obstruction of justice, and if you don't see the corporation itself as being squarely culpable, then I hope you will at least write another post denouncing the legal fiction of corporate personhood.

  7. To the anonymous poster who asked: In 1996, I was awarded the George Washington Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for my series of 1995 columns on the National Standars for U.S. History.

  8. To SJohn: "KBR is, however, allegedly responsible for other crimes such as kidnapping and obstruction of justice."

    Allegedly so. But a civil plaintiff's claims are not proof in themselves. I haven't heard KBR's side of the story, and I assume they have arguments to make in their defense, else there already would have been a settlement offer generous enough to spare the company this nightmare.

    I tend to be very suspicious of tort claims, especially when I see the plaintiffs presenting their case to the media before presenting it to a jury, and then see the MSM lining up to pronounce the guilt of the defendant in advance of a trial. What this suggests to me is a tort lawyer in essence trying to extort money from the defendant: "Pay me to make this bad PR go away."

    None of this argument is intended to exculpate KPR for actual wrongdoing, merely to say that I know what vile scum infests the tort bar, and I know how they operate.

  9. It's not "extreme cynicsm" you ask to be excused for, it's extreme lack of basic decency.

    If your wife or daughter is ever gangraped, please tell her congratulations on the book and movie deal prospects.

  10. "KBR didn't rape her. Employees of KBR raped her. Why is KBR liable?"

    Quite a stretch there ...

    What about the people accused of committing the rape? What about the security guards who held her in the shipping container or destroyed evidence? Has KBR turned these people over to Federal authorities? Because those are all felony crimes under U.S. law.

    And if KBR hasn't done some sort of due diligence to protect the victim, protect evidence, or facilitate an investigation by authorities, then they most certainly do have liability.

    Of course you cite to one of the worst-reported and misconstrued tort cases in the last 50 years, and continue the misstatement of what the case was really about.

    How you won an award for anything besides shitting your pants is beyond me.

  11. I completely agree with this blog. I refuse to believe her side of the story without knowing ALL sides of the story. Just because a woman screams rape doesn't mean that's what happened. Just because she said she was locked in a shipping container doesn't mean it happened.

    No one forced her to drink that night. By all means if I were her after one of the men she was drinking with made a short joke about rufees I would have never taken a sip. No one forced her to stay in a situation she wasn't comfortable with.

    And I'm sorry but as a woman myself I know damn good and well that if I went to work in a situation like that it would be like throwing a steak into a cage full of lions. Sooner or later one isn't going to be able to resist the urge anymore.

    You put an attractive young female in the midst of hundreds of sexually starved and frustrated men, rape is bound to happen.

    Put a woman in the middle of a room with hundreds of prisoners around her, do you think she's safe. She knew perfectly well the situation she was getting herself into.

    Just a little rant from me, I know this post is old.