Jury awards Tacony dungeon victim $45 million
It's not clear if Tamara Breeden will ever get any money from Linda Ann Weston, but the verdict sent a message, attorney says.
A JURY yesterday awarded $45 million to Tamara Breeden, one of four mentally disabled victims rescued from a squalid Tacony dungeon in 2011, after hearing evidence that she had been kidnapped, starved, beaten and prostituted for 10 years.
Breeden, 33, told the panel on Wednesday that Linda Ann Weston forced her to use a bucket when she needed to go to the bathroom, made her drink her own urine, knocked her teeth out with a hammer, beat her with a metal bat, took her babies away and barely fed her.
The Common Pleas jury spent one hour, 20 minutes deliberating before awarding $40 million in compensatory damages against Weston and two other defendants, said Steven Wigrizer, Breeden's lawyer.
It awarded $5 million in punitive damages - $3 million against Weston, 55, and $1 million each against defendants Gregory Thomas Sr., 51, and Eddie Wright, 53, the lawyer said.
Weston, Wigrizer told jurors, preyed on people who were weak, kept them captive, stole their Social Security benefits and moved around to avoid detection.
He said Thomas and Wright were Weston's cohorts. Breeden said the men raped her.
The defendants, in federal custody facing criminal charges, waived their right to be present at the civil trial before Judge Ramy Djerassi. They do not have attorneys in this civil case.
Wigrizer said he did not know whether the defendants had any assets. "It's almost beside the point," he said. "The idea was to send a message. And it sent a strong message: You can't get away with this type of conduct."
If the defendants get a book or movie deal and make money, they would have to turn it over to Breeden, he said. For Breeden, having a chance to tell her story was cathartic, he said.
The defendants failed to respond to the lawsuit, so by default were liable. The purpose of this trial was for the jury to determine the amount of compensation to which Breeden was entitled for the horrors she endured.