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Nearly $1 million verdict in sexual assault of girl in Laos

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal jury has awarded a woman nearly $1 million in a case against a former Minnesota man who she says traveled to her native Laos and sexually assaulted her when she was 14 years old.

Civil cases involving allegations of child sex tourism are rare, and the jury’s verdict holds the man accountable for violating child sex tourism and child sex trafficking laws. The Associated Press is not naming the man because he was never criminally charged.

The woman, Panyia Vang, moved to Minnesota with her family after she became pregnant with the man’s child. The AP does not generally name victims of sexual abuse, but Vang chose to speak publicly about her story.

“This verdict vindicates the courage Panyia Vang had to come forward with the truth and her pursuit of justice,” said Patrick Arenz, one of Vang’s attorneys. “The verdict also sends a message that sex tourism will not be tolerated. Any U.S. citizen who travels overseas to engage in illicit sexual conduct will be held accountable by a jury in federal court.”

According to her lawsuit, Vang was an aspiring singer in the Laos countryside in 2006 when she believed she’d been offered an audition for a music video. She traveled 12 hours to the capital city of Vientiane, where an older Hmong-American man from Minnesota raped her repeatedly over three days in a hotel room.