MONTPELIER -- A woman who said she was sexually abused over several years in the 1990s was awarded $35 million by a civil jury, though her attorney acknowledged it was unlikely the defendant would ever be able to pay all of it.
The jury concluded Friday that Scott Isaacson abused the now-24-year-old woman during ski trips to Vermont when she was between ages 3 and 9 and lived in Massachusetts. He maintains his innocence.
The woman’s attorney, Jerry O’Neill, said the judgment had symbolic value, even if much of it will never be paid. The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse.
"The verdict sends another strong message that Vermont juries will not tolerate anyone, regardless of his or her position or status, taking advantage of children to satisfy their own sexual urges," said O’Neill, who has successfully represented many victims of childhood sexual abuse in Vermont courtrooms.
The civil judgment included $20 million to compensate the victim and $15 million in punitive damages. It was the largest judgment in a child sex abuse case in Vermont for a single plaintiff and the second largest personal injury verdict in Vermont, O’Neill said.
It’s a big verdict, particularly for a small state like Vermont, said Jeffrey Dion, director of the National Crime Victim Bar Association.
"It’s not unusual for us to see very large verdicts directly against perpetrators, because juries want to make clear that what these victims have suffered is incredibly damaging and that they want to deter other people from doing that," Dion said.
Isaacson, 56, represented himself during the trial in Chittenden Superior Court in Burlington. He was convicted in 2000 of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 in Massachusetts, charges that were related to the plaintiff. He served more than four years in prison.
Isaacson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the accusations against him were due to coaching and coercion. He said he was wrongly convicted in criminal court and will appeal the civil judgment.
"I am not going to ever give up on defending myself and professing my innocence," Isaacson said. "That will happen until my last breath."
Isaacson was previously from Hyannis, Mass. He still lives in Massachusetts, though he would not say where or what he does for a living.
O’Neill said he and another attorney proved the assaults took place using testimony of the survivor and other witnesses who said the girl was brought to Vermont to ski.