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Others Still Await Their Day in Court

November 08, 1994|PAMELA WARRICK

A former maid at the Las Vegas Hilton has charged that shortly after Paula Coughlin was assaulted, she too was dragged through a gantlet of drunken aviators and later raped by the man who lured her there.

According to a lawsuit set for trial in May, the maid--identified only as "Jane Doe"--became pregnant as a result of the attack and had an abortion rather than give birth to a child conceived "in such an awful, violent way."

A spokesman for Hilton said Monday that the woman "never mentioned rape" when she was interviewed by hotel security guards the night of the alleged attack. And, noted the spokesman, she waited 16 months to file her claim.

Coughlin's case was the first of 12 to go to trial in federal court in Las Vegas, where for 19 years, the Hilton hosted the Tailhook Assn.'s annual convention of aviators. The Jane Doe suit against the Hilton, the Tailhook Assn. and the Navy is among seven filed by San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli.

The mother of two, who now lives in Phoenix, speaking to The Times on the condition of anonymity, says she was 22 in the fall of 1991 when she and another maid decided to go to a party on the third floor of the hotel after finishing their shifts. According to testimony in the Coughlin case, the Hilton had barred some female employees from the third-floor Tailhook party suites.

"When we got there, I had a beer and then I lost my friend. A man came along and offered to help find her and next thing I knew I was in this one hallway. It was wall-to-wall guys and I got a third of the way through and someone grabbed me. I turned around and someone else grabbed me and the hands kept coming. . . .

"I was knocked down on my back and I was crying and kicking and screaming. I had to scoot out on my back and I ran to this wall where the same guy was waiting. He took me up to his room on the 14th floor and raped me and then pushed me naked out into the hallway," she said, adding that she did not file charges with police because she was "so drunk" she could not identify her attacker.

"Paula Coughlin was terribly treated," says Kevin McLean, Belli's associate, "but other victims also have some very compelling stories. The Hilton's conduct was deplorable and (the hotel chain) should understand that these cases are worth millions."

The Hilton has denied charges that it failed to provide adequate security during Tailhook and plans to appeal the Coughlin decision.

While she waits for her case to go to trial, Jane Doe says her fits of uncontrollable crying and depression continue. "I'm glad it's over for Paula," she says. "I hope someday it'll be over for me."

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