Disgraced former attorney Aaron Biber, imprisoned for raping a 15-year-old friend of his son, has been ordered to pay $15 million to a trust in the teen's name for acts a judge deemed "utterly intolerable to the civilized community."
Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly ordered Biber, 48, formerly of Shorewood, to pay $10 million in punitive damages and $5 million for assault, battery and emotional distress inflicted on the teen, leading up to and including the October 2009 assault.
Attorney Michael Schwartz, trustee for the teen, said he and other attorneys will immediately work toward collecting on the civil judgment, which concluded a lawsuit brought by the boy and his family.
"He was a prominent Twin Cities lawyer for a number of years, and we expect that he's got assets that would be available to the judgment that he owes," Schwartz said.
He noted that such damages are not dischargeable should Biber ever file bankruptcy.
Attorneys for the boy's family sued Biber in June 2010, a month before he pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor over whom he had authority. He was sentenced in October to 18 years in prison and later disbarred.
Biber responded to the suit only by invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Reilly then issued a judgment by default earlier this month. Biber's attorney, Robert Stich, did not return a telephone call on Tuesday.
Jeff Anderson, whose St. Paul law firm represents victims of childhood sexual abuse, namely by clergy, said the $15 million award is large but in line with the crime that prompted it.
"It reflects really two things," he said. "The gravity of the harm that was done to the youth, and secondly, it's magnified by the position of authority than he had and used. "
Defense attorney Joe Friedberg concurred, saying: "Based on my limited knowledge, it doesn't seem completely out of line."
In her 29-page order, Reilly said the $15 million judgment was justified by the same factors District Judge Lloyd Zimmerman cited in issuing a prison term six years longer than prescribed by state guidelines.
Zimmerman cited the "shocking, horrific and stunning" nature of Biber's conduct, which he further called "repulsive as a matter of law and repulsive as a matter of fact."
According to court documents, Biber, a former partner at the firm Gray Plant Mooty who had served as treasurer of the Minnesota State Bar Association, "groomed" the boy for sex, starting when the boy, his neighbor, was 11.
He was accused of sending the boy explicit text messages and pornography, giving him back rubs and asking him to perform sexual acts. On the night of the teen's freshman homecoming, Biber got him drunk and had sex with him for more than two hours, court records said.
The boy threatened to kill himself and was hospitalized before telling a psychiatrist, his parents and police what happened. Biber was arrested in December 2009 after police recorded a telephone call between the boy and Biber in which they arranged to meet for oral sex.
Reilly wrote that the teen suffered "physical, emotional and psychological injury ... so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it." The teenager is receiving inpatient psychological treatment out of state at a cost of $10,000 a month. He is expected to remain there for as long as a year.
Schwartz said the boy's family feels somewhat vindicated by the sentence and the award. However, he added:
"They'd much rather ... go back and have an innocent childhood, a normal childhood and a normal life. They'd much rather this never happened."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921