Judge awards $14 million to victim of child molester

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A circuit court judge has awarded a woman over $14 million dollars in damages against a man who sexually abused her when she was a child.

Circuit Court Judge Stephanie McDonald awarded the woman over $14 million after presiding over the non-jury trial in August 2011 in the Berkeley County Court of Common Pleas. The court had found Donald Baxter guilty of sexual assault, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and gross negligence.

The court awarded the victim actual damages as follows:

Past and future pain and suffering:         $3,500,000
Past and future mental anguish              $3,500,000
Future medical expenses                           $162,145
Total Actual Damages                              $7,162,145

The court also awarded her $7,000,000 in punitive damages against Baxter and found that punitive damages were justified under the Gamble v. Stevenson factors. Officials say this case is believed to be one of the largest trial verdicts in South Carolina for a child molestation case.

According to court documents, Baxter forced the victim, who was a child at the time, to perform sexual acts and sexually abused her many times. Court officials say Baxter threatened the girl with beatings and other consequences if she told anyone of the sexual assaults.

Authorities say that woman initially reported the abuses in 1998, but then recanted after Baxter threatened and beat her. Court documents state that Baxter forced her to recant by telling Bowles that he would beat her and kill her by "snapping her neck."

In 2002, the victim reported the abuse to government law enforcement agencies.

"She was truly inspirational in court, and, hopefully, her courage will inspire other victims to speak out and fight against child molesters," Griffith said.

In 2003, Donald Baxter had pleaded guilty in general sessions court of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature by taking indecently liberties against the plaintiff.  He received a six year sentence of imprisonment, which was suspended upon two years probation.

Griffith warned all parents and care-givers to be extra vigilant against child sexual predators.

"As we can see with the allegations of child abuse which appear to have occurred at Penn State and the local charges that have been brought against Mr. ReVille, child sexual molestations are a nationwide problem," Griffith said.

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