Stephanie Barry, Childhood sex abuse victim from Ludlow wins $250,000 civil verdict in US District Court, Mass Live

A jury on Thursday awarded $250,000 to a 53-year-old Ludlow woman who sued her stepfather for raping her as a child after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court.

An eight-member panel found in favor of plaintiff Kathy Picard, who was at the forefront of pushing new legislation in 2014 to extend the statute of limitations to allow victims of sexual abuse more time to sue their alleged abusers.

Picard sued her stepfather, Louis Buoniconti, a Florida resident, arguing he began molesting her at the age of 7 in their home in Springfield, and escalated to raping her when she was a teen. The jury found in Picard’s favor on four counts: battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy; and false imprisonment.

She testified that Buoniconti, whom she believed was her biological father until she was 17, molested her on a brown recliner in the basement of their Moss Street home in Springfield, then began pursuing her in a locked bathroom and her bedroom. She told jurors he appeased her when she was young by calling her “his special girl.”

Buoniconti and his biological family members who attended the trial contended the accusations were lies. He represented himself at trial. Buoniconti’s brother testified against him, telling jurors he heard “heavy breathing and crying” from Kathy’s bedroom after Louis Buoniconti entered on several occasions in the 1970s.

Buoniconti’s biological daughter testified, on the other hand, that her father had never been sexually abusive toward her.

Picard was present when former Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill to extend the statute of limitations in question from age 21 to 35 years after a complainant’s 18th birthday – which puts Picard precisely at the deadline: 53. Picard filed her lawsuit on the same day in June 2014 when the legislation was passed.

It is the only case of its kind that has gone to trial in federal court in Springfield.

After the verdict, Picard said she wasn’t in it for the money.

“For justice. For vindication. And not just for myself, but for other survivors who also can get their day in court,” Picard said. “Justice was served. It was emotional. It was difficult, and I’m glad it’s over.”

Picard added that she was headed from court late Thursday to a weekly support group for victims of sexual abuse.

Her attorney, John B. Stewart, who took the case pro bono, said the trial experience will allow Picard to encourage others in the group to follow the same legal path if they wish.

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