A Dallas-area Muslim cleric was ordered Thursday to pay $2.5 million to a woman he’s accused of sexually exploiting.
District Court Judge Emily Tobolowsky ruled that the cleric, Imam Zia ul-Haq Sheikh, 50, must compensate the woman for mental anguish and other damages, The Dallas Morning News reported. Sheikh had been an imam at the Islamic Center of Irving, one of the biggest mosques in Texas.
In an email to the paper, he said he believed the judgment was in error.
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“Unfortunately, litigation in this country does not always favor the truth,” he said. “In most cases, it boils down to how much financial stamina one has, and whether one has good legal representation.”
Sheikh was accused of sexually exploiting the woman — identified only as Jane Doe — after providing her with mental health services when she turned 18.
“Jane’s emotional dependency as a result of being counseled by defendant from age 13 to age 19 led Jane to be fearful of losing defendant’s support in her life, and therefore created a situation where Jane was unable to refuse defendant’s requests,” the lawsuit said, referring to Sheikh’s alleged requests for sexually explicit photos and videos, and, ultimately, for intercourse.
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When the woman was 19, the pair had sex at a motel, according to the paper. Sheikh gave her a pregnancy test afterward to ensure he wouldn’t lose his job. He later cut off contact with her.
The woman’s attorney, Susan Adams, told the paper in a statement that the judgment “offers justice and hope not only to her but to other survivors of abuse.”