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Boston Jury awards former postal worker $697,000 in civil rape trial

Posted on Nov 07, 2005

Jury awards former postal worker $697,000 in civil trial Woman alleges boss raped her By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff | November 5, 2005 After a letter carrier accused her boss of raping her in a boiler room at the Dorchester Center post office five years ago, postal inspectors found semen in the room -- but no criminal charges were brought. Boston.com Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts The boss, John R. Kelley, who had been acting manager at the post office on Talbot Avenue, insisted he never had sexual relations with the woman, and federal and state officials didn't pursue the case. But the woman, whose name is being withheld because of the rape allegations, did not give up. She filed a civil suit against Kelley and the US Postal Service in federal court and got a court order forcing Kelley to turn over a DNA sample last year. His DNA matched the semen found at the scene. And yesterday, after a three-day trial, a civil jury in US District Court in Boston found that Kelley had sexually assaulted the former letter carrier, and it awarded her $697,000 in damages. 'I'm overwhelmed," said the 45-year-old woman. She said the verdict by the six-woman, four-man civil jury felt almost as good as a guilty verdict, though she'd still like to see Kelley go to jail for what he did to her. 'Justice prevailed," said Walpole lawyer Gerald F. Blair, who represents the woman. 'This guy has gotten away with a lot of things over a long time." Kelley will have to pay the victim $409,500 because the US Postal Service had agreed to pay her $287,500 as part of a settlement approved by the court last year, said US District Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings, who presided over the trial. The settlement resolved allegations that the Postal Service failed to maintain a workplace free of sexual harassment. Bob Cannon, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Boston, said the agency hadn't admitted any wrongdoing as part of the settlement and 'followed proper procedure in a difficult and complicated matter in order to respect the concerns and privacy of all parties." Kelley, 43, of Saugus, who now works as a limousine company manager, left the courtroom after the verdict, insisting that the sex was consensual. 'She fooled everybody. She beat the jury, she beat the judge, she beat us," he said. During closing arguments, lawyers for both sides said the case came down to credibility. And after hearing the testimony of Kelley and the woman, jurors sided with the woman. The woman, who has been on leave, testified that she met Kelley in 1998. One night that year after both worked late at the main postal facility in South Boston, she went to his Quincy apartment and had sex with him willingly, she said. But after that encounter, she said, she had very little contact with him. They worked at different locations until 2000, when she was a letter carrier assigned to the Dorchester Center post office and he became acting manager. The woman said she had no interest in Kelley, but he would make lewd comments to her, expose himself, and masturbate while they were working. 'It was just months and months of just constantly sexually harassing me, making sexual comments at me," she said, adding that she never reported Kelley because she thought she could handle it and feared he'd change her hours or try to get her fired. Then around Sept. 7, 2000, the woman said, Kelley unlocked the boiler room and ordered her inside, saying 'if I didn't want to lose my job, I better get in there." The woman said she was afraid and that Kelley forced her to have sex. She said she didn't tell anyone for several weeks, then reported it to a union representative and company official, triggering an investigation by postal inspectors. Both the Suffolk district attorney's office and the US attorney's office declined to bring charges, according to Blair. Kelly testified Thursday that he never sexually harassed the woman and that she smiled at him, prompting him to lead her into the boiler room where she willingly had sex. When asked why he initially denied there was any sexual encounter, Kelley said, 'Fear of my job." Kelley told jurors he was placed on leave, and after no criminal charges were brought, the Postal Service offered him his job back. He said he resigned in 2002, partly because he was embarrassed by the allegations. The woman said she didn't go to officials right away because she was ashamed and feared her boyfriend would leave her. 'My relationship ended. I was depressed . . . my self-esteem, my self-worth, everything, I lost everything," she said.

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