If “yes, to my great regret” has become the stock answer for remorseful Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, then her protagonist in the now-discredited gang rape tale—the one who sent a college into chaos two years ago—has found a mantra of her own: “I don’t remember.”
Before a hushed courtroom in downtown Charlottesville, a federal jury and a gallery of 24 spectators gathered Monday to hear over two hours of Jackie bobbing and weaving around questions in her videotaped deposition.
This wasn’t the chatty Jackie of yore, the one who enthralled the visiting Erdely over dinner at the College Inn restaurant. Or even the the deeply scarred Jackie who dove into radio silence a month before Rolling Stone’s once-blockbuster article.
This was the Jackie whose memory couldn’t even be refreshed by looking at text messages and emails from two years ago, such as a text in which she claims that she was misrepresented.
“It says that I did,” she allows.
In the original article, the reporter accused UVA President Teresa Sullivan of over-invoking “I don’t know” as an answer, but in the nearly three hours of audio-taped deposition, Jackie said some version of this answer at least 50 times—before we lost count.
Some of the things Jackie can’t recall: why she stopped responding to Erdely, whether she backed out of the article, whether she later agreed to be in it, whether she claimed to get a sexually-transmitted disease from her alleged attack, and how Erdely—as Jackie claimed in a note to a friend—took “artistic license” and “sensationalized” her story.
“I can’t remember anything specific,” says Jackie. “I just remember reading the article and thinking I wouldn’t have written it that way.”
The lawyer presses for more.
“It’s very difficult to explain, to articulate,” says Jackie.
As the one of the defense lawyers warned in the opening statement a week ago, Jackie—though she reveals in the deposition that she’s now married to her childhood sweetheart—”she’s a completely different person—like a shell.”
On the tape, she sniffs like Donald Trump at a debate. Her lawyer, Palma Pustilnik, who has threatened legal action against a reporter contacting her client, issued a blanket statement: “My client continues to have no comment in this matter.”
Surely, she would remember meeting with UVA Police over the criminal report she filed after allegedly getting beaned with a beer bottle on the UVA Corner?
“I don’t remember,” she says. “I have PTSD.”
She declares that she didn’t want to file criminal charges.
The climax of the proceedings comes when she’s presented a set of screenshots of text messages she’d emailed Erdely. Ostensibly from two friends and fellow rape survivors, the women were adamant about not being interviewed, and the lawyer asked if Jackie clandestinely created the text messages.
The reply: “I can’t remember.”
“You can’t remember one way or another?” gasped the bewildered barrister, who then asked if she wished, under penalty of perjury, to deny making the messages.
“I just don’t remember any of this,” replied Jackie. “It’s foggy.”
The day ended with a blistering examination of Elisabeth Garber-Paul, the Rolling Stone fact-checker.
C-VILLE Weekly’s coverage continues tomorrow.
Correction October 25: Headline “Jackie deposed in Day 7 of Rolling Stone trial” changed to reflect that Jackie testified in court through her previously videotaped deposition.