A federal judge here yesterday awarded about $265,000 in damages to each of two women who were raped at the Diplomat motel in Northeast Washington last July, saying the motel's owners should have known that the high number of crimes there might lead to attacks on unsuspecting guests.
U.S. Distict Judge Thomas A. Flannery said Kirby and Wren Associates the motel's owners. "should have realized that its conduct exposed these guests to an unreasonable risk of criminal agression."
The two women, both Brazilian citizens, were raped and sodomized by two men after checking ito the motel on a visit to Washington. Their attorney, Peter Messitte, said at the trial they had no idea that the Diplomat knowingly catered to pimps. prostitutes and other persons likely to prey on unsuspecting tourists, and he introduced evidence that 400 crimes had been reported to the plice from the motel in the four years prior to the assault.
The women suffered minor physical injuries, but each testified that they had severe emotional problems as a result of the incident.
Judge Flannery gave each of the women $250,000 "to compensate for this past and future pain and suffering. The effects of the attack will be permanent in many respects and will affect plaintiffs all of their lives," he said.
In addition, he awarded them $13,000 each for future psychiatric counseling. Flannery figured that award on the basis of one visit a week to a psychiatrist for five years at the rate of $50 an hour.
Flannery also awarded one of the plantifts $2,788 for medical care for a psychiatric hospitalization after the incident and for objects that were stolen from her during the attack. The other woman received $406 for stolen materials and minor medical bills.
Attorney Messitte said late yesterday he had been able to contact only one of the women about the verdict, and that her reaction had been "one of positive delight." The woman now lives in the Washington area.
He said the woman who had been depressed and suicidal since the incident and had lived in virtual seclusion, reacted so positively when she heard the news that it caused him to feel "There's justice in a money verdict."
"She wasn't sure she understood at first," Messitte said. "she said, "That much?'"
Messitte's firm will receive one-third of the award under the terms fof a contingency fee arrangement. The amount of the award is not taxable income for the women, Messitte said.
The women had reportedly turned down a settlement offer from the Attorneys for the motel said late yesterday they had no comment on the motel for approximately $50,000 each. verdict and had not yet decided on whether to appeal.
In his ruling yesterday, Flannery recounted the evidence given to him at the trial that the motel's personnel knowingly allowed prostitutes to stay there. made false claims about the amount of security on th premises and only provided part-time security guards who actually did maintenance work instead of security work.
Flannery noted that the motel had spent nearly $100,000 in attempts to improve the security on the premises. but he said the security measures were "significantly dificient." He pointed out, for example that the room rented to the two women had a light only in the bathroom and that there was not a security force adequate to handle the problems that might arise in a high-crime area such as the Diplomat.
"Both the large numbers of reported crimes and the tolerance of prostitution made clear that the Diplomat was a place at which peculiarly vicious persons were likely to be found," Flannery said. The lack of security "worked to create the opportunity for plaintiff' assailants to commit the crime," he added.
The motel's attorneys had claimed the women had contributed to their attack by leaving the door to their room open while they unloaded their car. Flannery rejected that argument, saying the absence of light in the room rented to the women forced them to leave it open so they could see how to return to their room.
"Not familiar with the crime problems in the area or management's attitude toward prostitution, plaintiffs hardly can be considered negligent inleaving the door open," he said. He also pointed out that one of the women was first assualted outside the room and forced into it by a man with a gun.
The women also had asked for punitive damages because motel employees had laughed at them when they immediately asked to use the telephone to report the attack to the BravillianEmbassy Flannery refused that claim.