Congressional hearings set for KBR gang rape case
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday on the disturbing case of Jamie Leigh Jones, the young Houston woman who alleges she was raped by several of her KBR coworkers in Iraq in July 2005 and then locked inside a shipping container by her employer, who warned her that she'd be out of a job if she reported the incident. Two years later, there have still been no charges filed in the case.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) has announced that the hearing is set for 10:15 a.m. EST on Dec. 19 in a statement on his website. Poe played a key role in freeing Jones after she managed to borrow a cell phone from a sympathetic guard posted outside the container where she was being held without food or water. She called her father, who called the congressman, who contacted the State Department, which dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to rescue Jones.
Jones went to Iraq as an employee of former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root of Houston, now an independent company known as KBR. Within four days of her arrival, Jones alleges she was drugged and raped by several of her coworkers, who were stationed there as KBR firefighters. Army doctors reportedly examined Jones and confirmed she had been raped, but the rape kit containing critical evidence disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.
Jones recently told her story to ABC News as part of an upcoming "20/20" investigation. This week Poe sent letters to officials at the State and Justice departments and joined Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in a letter to the Attorney General demanding immediate answers on the status of the investigation. According to Poe's statement:
"Jamie Leigh Jones has bravely decided to waive her rights to privacy and come forward with her story of a brutal sexual assault that she endured while working in Iraq," said Poe. "In 2005, I was contacted by Jamie's father to facilitate her return from Iraq after she called him for help. Two years later we are still looking for answers as to why this case has not been investigated. Through Jamie's decision to go public with her story, we now have the ability to demand answers in a public forum."
Legal experts say Jones' alleged rapists will probably never face a criminal trial due to a loophole that's left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of U.S. law. In October, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill (H.R. 2740) sponsored by Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) that would subject all war zone contractors to U.S. criminal law, but that measure is still pending in the Senate.
In the meantime, Jones has filed a civil suit against KBR and Halliburton. She has also started a nonprofit organization called the Jamie Leigh Foundation, which helps women who were sexually assaulted overseas while working for government contractors or other corporations.