KBR drops rape-case appeal

By Kevin Diaz

WASHINGTON - In a victory for Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, military contractor KBR has decided to drop a Supreme Court appeal in the case of a former company clerk who alleges she was raped by co-workers in Iraq.

KBR's decision represents the first significant legal fallout from the "Franken amendment," which protects defense workers from being forced to accept arbitration after suffering sexual assault, battery or discrimination. The measure became the subject of a testy Senate battle that reverberated in legal circles and in popular culture as the subject of a Jon Stewart rant on cable TV's "The Daily Show."

KBR, which has sought to handle Jamie Leigh Jones' claim out of court, acknowledged Tuesday that its appeal might violate the amendment.

With Jones looking on from the public gallery, the Senate passed Franken's measure last October by a vote of 68 to 30. Even though 10 Republicans sided with Franken, the debate proved to be his first big partisan fight. It left lasting feelings among Republicans who believed that in standing for the merits of arbitration they ended up being vilified as apologists for rape, something Franken said he did not intend.

KBR's decision sends Jones' case to a trial in Houston.

"I'm thankful that Jamie Leigh will finally have her long-overdue day in court," Franken said. "She's one of the most courageous women I have ever met and any role I played in helping her seek justice was my honor."

Jones alleges that she was drugged, beaten and gang-raped by several co-workers at company housing in Baghdad's Green Zone in 2005, when KBR was operating as a subsidiary of Halliburton.

Although the incident happened five years ago, when Jones was 20, the company could still be covered by the Franken amendment, which was intended to bar defense contracts to companies that enforce new or existing arbitration agreements in cases such as Jones'.
(To read original article, visit this Minneapolis Star-Tribune link.)

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