- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - A mentally impaired northwest Missouri woman who gave birth after being sexually assaulted by her caregiver’s husband has been awarded $9 million in a civil lawsuit.

A Buchanan County jury on Thursday awarded $3 million in actual damages and $6 million in punitive damages to the 35-year-old woman, identified only as Jane Doe in court proceedings. The woman’s relatives originally sued Progressive Community Services and some employees, including the woman’s caseworker, Alberta Hughes. All defendants except Hughes were dismissed from the case before Thursday’s verdict, The St. Joseph News-Press reported (https://bit.ly/1KPsEwP ).

The jury found the victim’s guardian was 30 percent responsible for the actual damages, meaning Hughes would owe about $2.1 million.

Prosecutors argued that Hughes falsified records and failed to perform her job. She was required to keep the victim in sight at all times and be within 10 seconds reach. However, prosecutors said she consistently took Jane Doe to her home and left the woman alone with her husband, Tony Hughes, who was a convicted felon on parole at the time of the assault.

Tony Hughes, 52, pleaded guilty to felony sexual assault and is currently serving a seven-year sentence. DNA tests showed he was the baby’s father.

“We fought long and hard for our client to get justice, and justice was delivered today by the jury’s verdict,” said Rose Briscoe, one of Jane Doe’s attorneys.

Hughes’ defense attorney, Steve Coronado, said he would file post-trial motions seeking a new trial and judgment. If those motions are unsuccessful, “we will very likely seek an appeal,” he said.

He argued during trial that the sexual assault occurred while Jane Doe was being transported, which had been authorized by her guardian.

“Our position is that once the guardian had authorized the transportation, our client was no longer on clock and should not be held responsible for unanticipated acts,” Coronado said.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, https://www.newspressnow.com

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