Monday, May 12, 2008

Judge: Woman's rape case against Halliburton can go to trial

Judge: Woman's rape case against Halliburton can go to trial

Friday, May 9, 2008

(05-09) 19:34 PDT HOUSTON, (AP) --

A woman who said she was raped by co-workers while employed by a contractor in Iraq can take her claims to trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Jamie Leigh Jones filed a federal lawsuit last year, saying she was attacked while working for a Halliburton Co. subsidiary at Camp Hope, Baghdad, in 2005. Her lawsuit claims that after she endured harassment from some of the men where she lived in coed barracks, she was drugged and raped by Halliburton and KBR firefighters.

Jones, a former Conroe resident, said a KBR representative imprisoned her in a shipping container for a day so she wouldn't report the assault.

Attorneys for Halliburton, KBR and other subsidiaries that have been sued have disputed Jones' allegations. KBR split from Halliburton last year.

Washington-based attorney Stephanie Morris said her client is pleased that she will have the opportunity to bring attention to the case.

"We are extremely excited we can now go forward and present the case in the public arena and make the public aware of what been going on overseas in Iraq . Halliburton has ratified gross sexual conduct by their failure to act," Morris said.

The Associated Press usually does not identify people alleging sexual assault, but Jones' face and name have been broadcast in media reports and on her own Web site.

Halliburton's attorneys argued in March that the employment agreement Jones signed says any claims made by an employee against the company that in any way touch on his or her employment have to be settled through arbitration, in which a third party would resolve the case through a private hearing process.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison says the court will not compel the plaintiff to go to arbitration for her claims related to being assaulted. However, those claims cannot be pursued until other workplace-related claims are arbitrated.

"We entirely conceded those could go to arbitration," Morris said.

W. Carl Jordan, an attorney for Halliburton, did not return a phone call to his office and an e-mail on Friday night. A company spokeswoman said no one was immediately available to comment.

In December, Jones detailed her allegations to a congressional subcommittee. Several members of Congress have criticized the Justice, State and Defense departments for how the case was handled.

Congress has pressured the Bush administration to force U.S. contractors in Iraq to offer better protection for their employees from crimes.

© 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.

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