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JQH, Atrium settle suit with rape victim

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An April 2014 lawsuit involving the rape of a guest at a former John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts property reached its conclusion with a settlement.

The suit was settled after seven days at trial ended Feb. 13, according to a news release.

In the suit, Cheri Marchionda alleged she was attacked in a double-locked Des Moines Embassy Suites Hotel room. The release names defendant John Q. Hammons Hotels Management LLC as the hotel management company and defendant Atrium TRS III LP as the hotel owner/operator. Atrium last year took over management of late hotelier John Q. Hammons’ hotel properties as its parent company, J.D. Holdings LLC, bought the assets out of bankruptcy for $1 billion, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Sheri Smith, a spokeswoman for Atrium, provided a statement to SBJ.

“We are highly concerned with the incident that occurred nearly five years ago at the hotel under a previous management company,” the statement reads. “We can confirm that the claims arising from this incident have been settled, but the terms and conditions of the settlement are confidential. As one of the nation’s largest hotel operators, the security and safety of our guests is a top priority.

“As the property’s new leadership, we are focused on industry-leading safety practices to provide for our guests’ well-being.”

Marchionda’s lawsuit was settled in the U.S. District Court-Southern District of Iowa for undisclosed terms in the plaintiff-victim’s favor, according to the release.

“My life can never go back to what it was, but I intend to work on behalf of others – especially women travelers – to help protect them from harm, and to better assure guest safety and security in all forms of lodging,” she said in the release. “My life was shattered, but I am determined to do what I can to spare others the dread and horror I’ve experienced.”

Marchionda was represented by Peter Villari and Paul Brandes of Villari, Brandes & Giannone PC and Michael Hanamirian of The Hanamirian Firm PC.

“While this settlement … was reached before she would testify, the jury learned through numerous witnesses what happened and details of how Cheri’s life was irrevocably and horrifically changed,” the attorneys said in a joint statement.

In her complaint, Marchionda alleged John Q. Hammons Hotels Management and Atrium failed to protect her from harm by another guest, according to the release. The suit alleged hotel staff gave a room key to Christopher LaPointe — who pleaded guilty in December 2014 to raping Marchionda and burglary and was sentenced to 20 years in prison — for her room without checking his identification and whether he had a right to the key, according to the release.

When LaPointe’s key wouldn’t open Marchionda’s door, he requested help from hotel staff to open the security latch bar, LaPointe said in his guilty plea. Atrium denied any wrongdoing on its part, according to the release.

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