For a second day, former Rolling Stone fact-checker Elisabeth Garber-Paul took the stand to explain why she believed Jackie, the student whose fake gang rape story sent the University of Virginia campus into uproar two years ago.
“She seemed to really care about getting this story right,” testified Garber-Paul. “She was totally comfortable with having her peers know she was the Jackie in the story.”
Unlike other witnesses in this trial, now in its eighth day, Garber-Paul turns directly toward the jury to explain that she conducted a pair of two-hour conversations with Jackie.
“Four hours in one week is a lot for a college student,” Garber-Paul testified.
The fact-checker said documentation supplied by reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely included a 431-page file including contemporary emails, alleged injury photos, and the transcript of congressional testimony about Jackie’s ordeal from the UVA administrator who had first introduced Jackie to the Rolling Stone reporter.
But the witness said it wasn’t just written records that seemed to validate the story; it was also Jackie’s way of recounting her alleged rape.
“It was like she had these snapshots in her head– 360-degree memories,” said Garber-Paul.
The images seemed so clear, vivid and painful that Jackie seemed at one point to be losing her breath, and Garber-Paul offered to pause the process.
“She said, ‘Let’s keep going.'”
The fact-checker said the college student spoke as someone recounting a terrifying ride.
“It was like she could close her eyes and see what was going on at every stop,” said Garber-Paul. “I believed everything in the article to be absolutely accurate.”
After lunch, the plaintiff fired back by blasting the decision not to reach out to Jackie’s former friend Kathryn Hendley, or “Cindy,” whom the article quoted as calling herself a “hookup queen” and supposedly telling Jackie she should have enjoyed getting raped.
“Why didn’t you have fun with it?” Cindy is quoted in the story. “A bunch of hot Phi Psi guys?”
“Those quotes were too perfect, weren’t they?” demanded plaintiff’s attorney Andy Phillips. “You didn’t contact her because you knew she’d deny them, didn’t you?”
The fact-checker disagreed. The lawyer then suggested that Garber-Paul should have noticed that Jackie was hiding witnesses who could corroborate her story.
“Isn’t that a giant, waving, red flag?” asked Phillips.
“I didn’t realize that she was in any way preventing us,” replied Garber-Paul.
However, the lawyer refused to retreat and reminded her that Jackie must have possessed contact information for her former friends. Finally, Garber-Paul agreed that Jackie may have been stonewalling.
“This is not specialized fact-checker information,” concluded Phillips. “This is common sense.”
The afternoon included testimony from two police officers revealing that Jackie refused to cooperate in their attempts to criminally investigate her alleged gang rape or a subsequent tossed-bottle incident.
But the bulk of the afternoon was consumed by playing video depositions of two of Jackie’s former friends, Kathryn Hendley and Ryan Duffin. Both testified that the Rolling Stone article departed in dramatic fashion from their memories of the aftermath of Jackie’s fateful date.
Each said that Jackie had trumpeted her plan to meet up with her mysterious suitor, “Haven Monahan,” on September 28, 2012, the night of her alleged gang rape. Jackie would claim that Monahan then orchestrated a five-man assault in which Jackie was forced to perform oral sex.
It was a bizarre climax to a month, the friends testified, of catfishing, creating fake messages in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to woo Duffin by making him jealous.
Hendley and Duffin disputed key details in the Rolling Stone account, saying they saw no blood or injuries on the friend who would later claim herself the victim of a three-hour, seven-man attack atop the shards of a smashed glass table.
“A complete fabrication” Duffin called the story, while Hendley– aka Cindy– called Rolling Stone’s account “a fictionalized version of my life.”
In the video, laughing off her portrayal as the callous “hookup queen,” Hendley reveals that when Erdely finally contacted her a few weeks after the article came out, she felt sorry for the reporter.
“I definitely understood,” she said, “what it was like to be lied to by Jackie.”