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Abuse victim gets second shot at justice   (access required)

When Kelly Waldron Bowles, 27, finally decided in 2002 to report years of sexual abuse at the hands of her former stepfather, a Dorchester County grand jury indicted Donald A. Baxter with second degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and committing a lewd act upon a child. Baxter eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of aggravated assault and battery by taking indecent liberties with a minor, and was sentenced to six years in prison, reduced to two years probation. He did no jail time. But in the civil suit that followed eight years later, it took Berkeley County Court of Common Pleas Judge Stephanie McDonald just one day to find for the victim. On November 15, McDonald awarded Bowles $14 million in damages on her claims of sexual assault, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and gross negligence. “The award cannot replace the childhood and innocence that Kelly lost,” said her attorney, Joseph P. Griffith Jr. of Charleston (pictured).

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