A federal jury sided Thursday evening with an ex-husband who was accused of forcing his wife to be a sex slave, deciding not to award the woman any monetary damages after an unusual trial that included lurid photos and detailed accounts of the couple’s sadomasochistic role-playing.
Sitting at the plaintiff’s table with her hands clenched tightly in her lap, Kimberley O’Brien, 52, stared straight ahead and pursed her lips as the jury of four men and four women announced its decision after about 4 1/2 hours of deliberation.
Her ex-husband, Kevin Anderson, had attended the entire nine-day trial but went back home to Wisconsin after closing arguments ended early in the afternoon and was not present for the verdict.
O’Brien left the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse without comment. Her lawyer, Dean Dickie, said the years of litigation has left her “fragile.”
“We’re disappointed with the verdict,” he said. “This has been a very difficult ordeal for her.”
O'Brien's lawsuit – filed seven years ago -- alleged Anderson, a wealthy businessman, forced her to parade around their homes naked and in heels, sleep on the floor next to their bed at night and address him as “master.”
According to the lawsuit, Anderson stunned O'Brien with a blow to the head on their California honeymoon in 2005, tied her up, sexually assaulted her, took photographs and left her bound overnight. The suit also alleged Anderson forced her to abort their child before he would agree to marry her.
In closing arguments Thursday, O’Brien’s attorneys said Anderson had manipulated his vulnerable wife for years, building her up and tearing her down until she was so emotionally scarred he was able to inflict his sick sexual fantasies on her at his whim.
“Mr. Anderson is a predator,” said attorney Robert Levels. “He has no regard for women, he has no compunction, no conscience and no honor.”
Anderson’s attorneys, meanwhile, painted a picture of O’Brien as an unstable “gold digger” who initiated the kinky sex herself and schemed to take her husband’s money.
For much of the three-hour arguments, O’Brien sat at the plaintiff’s table with a box of tissues in front of her, sobbing softly and dabbing her eyes and nose. Anderson, 57, dressed in a checkered suit jacket, sat calmly at a table across the room.
Anderson took the stand in his defense on Tuesday and contended the role playing was O’Brien’s idea. He testified she got the abortion behind his back and later told him she’d lost the baby in a miscarriage.
In his closing argument, Anderson’s attorney, Charles Cole, said the case was about nothing more than a relationship that turned toxic. He said that if O’Brien thought she was being abused, she had every opportunity to get away from her husband or go to the authorities, especially when he was out of town or she was staying at her lakefront condo in Chicago.
“This is not a vulnerable woman under anyone’s control, locked up in some dungeon,” Cole said. “This story just doesn’t hold water.”