Civil Suit Filed in Alleged Rape at Houston Grand Opera (UPDATED)

Categories: Courts

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A teenager is going after her alleged rapist in civil court.

Some readers have commented on our use of the full name of the plaintiff, who is no longer a minor. We should have offered more context in the initial report as to why we included Dewalt's name, and why she and her attorneys chose not to file under her initials (or as a "Jane Doe") as is generally the practice in these cases. That was to come in a Friday update, after a formal interview with Dewalt's attorneys. One of those attorneys, Rick Prieto, tells us, "She is no longer a minor, so she filed under her own name." Gwen Dobrowski, another of her attorneys, tells us, "It was appropriate, under the circumstances, for Amber Dewalt's full name to be published, and not the anonymous 'Jane Doe.'" Again, we apologize for not making it clear right away that we had already been in touch with her attorneys, and that Dewalt wanted this filed transparently. Without that context, it may have looked like we were acting against Dewalt's wishes, or in conflict with our own policies. We hope this helps clarify things.

A woman who claims she was raped at age 16, while working as an extra last year for a Houston Grand Opera performance, is suing the HGO, the City of Houston, the Wortham Center and her alleged attacker in Harris County District Civil Court.

Amber Dewalt, now 17 18, says another extra, Gerald Guidry, raped her three times in January 2011 at the Wortham Center while the two were part of a production of Dead Man Walking. Guidry was charged in April 2011 with sexual assault of a child, but the charge was dropped after a grand jury declined to indict. [The Houston Press does not ordinarily name plaintiffs in civil suits alleging the rape of a minor. In this case, the plaintiff did not request confidentiality and the suit was not filed as a "Jane Doe" or by initials only; we will update this story after a scheduled interview with her attorneys.]

According to the suit, Guidry, 22 at the time, "began to stalk and make sexual comments to Dewalt at work. Left unguarded, the unfortunate eventually happened -- Guidry raped Dewalt....The first instance involved Guidry dragging Dewalt by her arm into the girls' dressing room where he forced her to perform oral sex on him. The second time, Guidry saw Dewalt by a snack machine and dragged her again by her arm into the men's restroom where he penetrated her and forced her to perform oral sex on him. The third time, Guidry followed Dewalt into a practice room where he once again raped her. The third time was particularly violent, causing Dewalt to bleed while in the shower later that night, alarming her mother that something horrible had just happened to her daughter."

Guidry referred us to his attorney, Cynthia Rayfield, who also handled his criminal case. She did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A spokesman for the Houston Grand Opera also declined to comment.

The suit claims that Dewalt's mother, whose name is not provided, "contacted HGO's General Director, Anthony Freud," after the alleged rapes, but was unable to reach him. She allegedly heard from his secretary, "who responded by saying, 'These are huge accusations being made,' and hung up the phone. Eventually, Melissa Kiesel, HGO's Human Resources Director, called back to investigate, at which time she was provided all the salient facts; however, thereafter, no follow-up notification was ever given to Dewalt or her mother. In fact, almost unbelievably, Guidry continued to work with HGO through the production of Dead Man Walking."

A spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office told us in an e-mail that "once a case has been no-billed by a grand jury (in secret proceedings) the person is no longer charged with a crime. We cannot discuss the case, and we also cannot talk about anything the grand jurors may have discussed/debated."

The suit accuses HGO of failing to supervise and ensure the safety of minors working as extras. Other defendants include The Wackenhut Corporation and AlliedBarton Security Holdings, who are accused of not providing adequate security at the Wortham Center; and the Houston First Corporation (formerly known as the Houston Convention Center Hall Corporation), which manages ten city-owned buildings, including the Wortham. We've left messages seeking comments from the defendants.



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19 comments
SgtStedenko
SgtStedenko

"Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are the city of Houston, TexasHouston Convention Center Hall Corporation; Houston First Corporation; Wortham CenterOperating Company; AlliedBarton Security Holdings and AlliedBartonSecurity Services; The Blackstone Group; and Wackenhut Corporation."

SgtStedenko
SgtStedenko

So she was sexually assaulted, yet went back to work 2 more times after that?

cepage
cepage

A quick news search indicates one other outlet covered this story, and had the courtesy to redact the plaintiff's name when quoting from the suit.

I know that the modus operandi of the Houston Press is to double down on your mistakes, and never admit wrongdoing. But just this once, how about you show some basic human decency and remove her name unless she says she wants to go public with her classmates and friends?

morning_sunshine
morning_sunshine

Why are you releasing the name of a rape victim - a minor rape victim?

DerFenster
DerFenster

@SgtStedenko So if someone returns to work or school afterwards, they could not possibly have been raped?? USA1,  you would've been comfy running as Republican this last election with all the rape varieties mentioned. 'Legitimate rape', 'unwelcome rape' etc. Oh wait, every one of those candidates was defeated. 

SgtStedenko
SgtStedenko

"So if someone returns to work or school afterwards, they could not possibly have been raped??"

Did I say that? No. Is it highly unusual? Yes. Let's not forget the Grand Jury declined to indict.

cepage
cepage

@craig.malisow Your note just says that she didn't specifically request the Houston Press to keep her name private. That seems like a pretty low standard for publishing her name, regardless of whether someone could find it through a public records search. 

SgtStedenko
SgtStedenko

Some people will believe anything they read on the internet. Pathetic. There never was any cleaning business, just the lies from a wannabe internet detective. But rant on, it only makes you look like a bigger fool each time. :)

phillycream
phillycream

@SgtStedenko @delano See, there you go. You are addicted to cleaning solvent apparently. Or you really could claim in this case that they flew up your nose.

delano
delano

@SgtStedenko @MadMac Your long-term exposure to solvents and other supplies of your cleaning business has impaired your thinking. Again.

SgtStedenko
SgtStedenko

@MadMac  What's dumb is automatically assuming it's truth in the first place. 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Proof? Who needs proof, your "common sense" trumps DECADES of criminal, psyhiatric, and medical studies. BTW, I work cases every week that are never tried. Too hard to dumb the TRUTH down to "common sense" levels.

SgtStedenko
SgtStedenko

Only if you do some research on common sense. Deal?

It would be nice to see even one shred of proof this even happened.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@SgtStedenko @EvenSteven Stedenko, I would recommend doing some research into why people don't report. There are a lot of reasons, and for a young person, reporting a person who might try to do you more harm is especially intimidating.

SgtStedenko
SgtStedenko

@EvenSteven This was a job that she had to show up for, not a situation at home. If you knew you were going to get raped when you went to work, would you still go? Why wouldn't you call the police after the first time? Doesn't make any sense to me.

Also, look at the complete list of all the companies they're suing I posted at the top. Hmmm

EvenSteven
EvenSteven

@SgtStedenko She was a a minor. Some abused children or battered women stay in situations which are harmful.  It does not make it right, but it happens.  Also, how do you know why the Grand Jury did what it did, and do you know whether the charges are being re-filed based on new evidence?  But everyone is entitled to an opinion, even without full info.  But, I get what you are saying...it's just based on lack of info.    

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