William Holden must pay $10.5 million for sexually abusing niece

William Holden went to prison for sexually abusing his underage niece. Now, a jury says he must pay her $10 million.

Cathy Olson was under the age of 14 when Holden sexually assaulted her three times in Brainerd. He was convicted of the crimes in 1986. Holden served time, and was later released. The relatives did not communicate until Olson's grandparents died, and then Holden, who was the executor of their will, got in touch.

Olson decided then that she would sue in civil court. She wasn't Holden's only victim; there may have been two others.

"It's actually the largest verdict in the history of Stearns County," says Michael Hall III, lead attorney on the case. "The verdict is so high because the jury is entitled to send a message to would-be perpetrators discouraging them from doing something like this ever again."

The Stearns County jury handed down the verdict this week, ordering Holden to pay $3.03 million in compensatory damages, for the harm that was done to his victim, and $7.5 million in punitive damages, essentially to punish Holden for his crime.

Such a large verdict against an individual sex offender is fairly unusual, Hall noted, simply because most people don't have a lot of money and thus aren't worth suing.

"It's relatively common to get financial, civil damages in sex abuse cases," Hall says. "But usually it's tied to a situation where you had some entity like a church, or a school, or the Boy Scouts, that's taken care of kids, that should have stopped abuse from happening."

In this case, Holden inherited money from his parents. Hall says the perpetrator has somewhere between $750,000 and $1.5 million in assets.

Although the abuse took place decades ago, Olson was still able to sue because of a special provision in the statute of limitations for sex crimes. Because so many abused children repress memories of the sexual abuse, the law limits civil cases in sexual abuse matters to six years after the victim remembers the abuse. And in this particular case, Olson did not remember certain portions of the abuse until 2008.

Her brother and her aunt actually witnessed Holden raping Olson and performing oral sex on her, and were able to remind her of those crimes, and also to testify about them.

Olson decided to prosecute after her uncle got in touch with her about her grandparents' will, acting like a jerk and denying that anything had ever happened, Hall says.

"We wanted justice and I think we got it," Olson told the St. Cloud paper.

Already, the verdict has launched a storm of controversy on the St. Cloud newspaper site, where people are expressing their need to weigh in on this victim's motivations. Here's one choice quote from a commenter calling him or herself "suicyle":

What ever happened to "double jeopardy", how can we put this person through another trial. He was sentenced and did his time. the crime is certainly terrible, but we have sentencing guidelines and punishment that suits the crime. Leave him alone let him carry on with his life. As for the victom she would be better served to move on as well. Life is harsh, spending your life as a professional victom is a terrible way to live.

Hall is offended by the comments suggesting Olson just wanted money. "There's one fact that proves that's not true," he says. "Before my client came to me, she went to another lawyer seeing if she could have him thrown back in jail."

It wasn't until she found out that Holden could not be forced to serve more jail time that she decided to sue civilly.

"Victims carry this pain around forever," Hall says. "But now perpetrators should know that they can't buy their peace by just waiting a few years. They now have to keep looking over their shoulders to see if justice is coming for them."

We think it's great that Holden has to pay. What do you think?

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