Janesville65.3°

Victim: Security could have deterred attack

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Ted Sullivan
September 15, 2009
— The attorney for a Fort Atkinson woman raped in the Janesville Mall parking lot in December 2005 claims the mall and Kohl's Department Stores could have prevented the attack with basic security measures.

The jury trial in Michelle L. Young's lawsuit against the mall, Kohl's and the estate of her attacker, Christopher J. Brown, 35, began in Rock County Court on Monday.


Brown was arrested two days after the Dec. 12, 2005, rape. He confessed and hung himself in the Rock County Jail two days later.


Richard Hemming, the attorney for the mall and Kohl's, said Brown is responsible for committing the rape.


The crime was committed by Brown, he said, and not Kohl's or the mall.


The rape occurred inside a closed van with tinted windows, Hemming said, and no one reported seeing or hearing anything.


It would have been difficult for anybody to see or a security camera to record anything inside the van, he said.


Brown also told the woman he was willing to go to prison for the rape, indicating nothing would have stopped him, Hemming said.


And, although cameras are helpful in solving crime, they don't stop crime, he said.


Young was raped at 3 p.m. in her van parked outside Kohl's. Brown pushed her into the back of the van, closed the door and attacked her.


After Brown's death, DNA linked him to the 2004 rape of a woman who was left bound and partially naked along Janesville's bicycle trail.


The jury trial, which is expected to last 10 days, began with opening arguments by both attorneys.


Young's attorney, James Hammis, said his client's life and family have been damaged because of the rape.


He said Young has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and could be considered a "lost soul," but she continues to be strong and live life.


Kohl's has one camera capable of showing the parking lot where Young was raped, but it was pointing toward the sidewalk outside the door, Hammis said.


Kohl's also didn't have any loss-prevention staff on duty the day of the rape, and no one was viewing the camera, he said.


The mall also had no exterior security cameras or signs stating security staff was on patrol to deter crime, Hammis said. And the security team was understaffed.


Four other sexual assaults were previously reported at the mall dating to December 1999, but security didn't know about them and didn't make the mall safer, Hammis said.


The mall's and Kohl's failure to provide adequate security created a risk of injury, he said.



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