A 12-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her stepfather will receive $70,000 toward medical expenses under a settlement that ended aweeklong civil trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
The girl and her mother, formerly of Annapolis but now living in the Los Angeles area, agreed to the settlement Tuesday afternoon -- just beforea jury was to begin deliberations in the case. The mother had, on behalf of her daughter, filed a $6 million suit in December 1989 against the stepfather -- two months after the 39-year-old was convicted ofattempted rape, sexual child abuse and a third-degree sexual offense.
The stepfather, who had been an aerospace engineer with a security clearance at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is serving a three-year prison sentence in connection with those convictions.
In the civil complaint, the plaintiffs charged him with assault, battery and negligence. The complaint said the stepfather fondled the girl, performed oral sex on her and forced her to perform oral sex on him during a period of at least a year, starting in August 1986.
David G. Whitworth Jr., attorney for the girl and her mother, said the settlement was reached after Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. ruled the defendant was liable for damages, leaving the jury with only one question to answer: How much money should the girl receive?
The plaintiffs were prepared to call one last witness -- the defendant, as part of an exploration of his financial condition and ability to pay damages -- before the settlement was reached.
An informalsurvey of area lawyers showed the jury was likely to return an awardbetween $50,000 and $100,000, Whitworth said, explaining how the $70,000 figure clinched the deal. He said the settlement agreement also includes a method for his clients to secure interests in property owned by the stepfather in Maryland and Texas, removing the need for thegirl and her mother to enforce the agreement. Whitworth said the family home, on Moran Court, is on the market.
Whitworth said the girl and her mother were unavailable for comment yesterday, but he described the reaction of the girl, who testified in both the criminal andcivil trials, to the news of the settlement.
"The daughter was elated. The first thing she said to (co-counsel Cathleen M. Vitale) was, 'Does this mean I don't have to talk about it anymore?' We said, 'You have to talk about it in therapy, but not to anyone else,' " Whitworth said.
Whitworth said testimony from the child's psychologist showed she would need weekly counseling for at least five more years -- at a cost of $120 an hour -- to help her come to grips with the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather. He said billsfor therapy have already added up to several thousand dollars.
Hesaid a psychologist described the stepfather as a pedophile during the civil trial. During his sentencing on criminal charges in December1989, the man said, "I do admit that I allowed things to get carriedaway and for (sexual) contact to happen," court records show. But the man, in a deposition last month, said the contact occurred when thegirl walked in on him and his wife while they were engaging in foreplay on a Saturday morning.
Whitworth said the psychologist testified the stepfather was denying his problem when he made that statement.
A divorce between the mother and the stepfather is pending, Whitworth said, adding that the mother and her daughter will return to California but may come back to live in Anne Arundel County after August.