The young woman at the center of Rolling Stone’s now-retracted 2014 article, “A Rape on Campus,” filed a motion March 15 to quash her deposition subpoena in the defamation lawsuit filed by UVA Associate Dean Nicole Eramo against the magazine and its reporter. That same day, Eramo’s attorneys filed a motion to depose Jackie for an additional three hours.
A U.S. District Court judge already had ordered that Jackie, who claimed to be the victim of a brutal gang rape at a UVA fraternity in 2012, be deposed April 5. (C-VILLE does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.)
In the latest motion, Eramo’s attorneys asked for more time to question Jackie because the seven hours the court allotted for her deposition would have to be shared with the defendants and because of the sheer volume of notes and recordings reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely had of interviews with Jackie.
“Moreover, the voluminous evidence that Jackie has a well-documented history of making untruthful statements about the very subject matter at issue here is likely to complicate the deposition, leading to further objections by the witness and her counsel,” says an Eramo memorandum.
Jackie had already been compelled to turn over texts and e-mails for “Haven Monahan,” the pseudonym she gave her date the night of the alleged rape. Eramo contends Jackie was “catfishing” to attract another student.
Team Jackie counters that even if she was the central figure in the Rolling Stone article, that’s “entirely irrelevant” to whether she has any factual information on Eramo’s defamation claims.
Her attorneys ask that her alleged assault be excluded from the deposition, while Eramo’s lawyers say that would be easy enough if Jackie stipulated the alleged gang rape never happened.
Every proposed stipulation is “a negative attack” on Jackie, “contains highly personal and confidential information and demonstrates a complete lack of compassion” for Jackie, her motion states.
Eramo plans to use the deposition as “a weapon to inflict harm” on Jackie with utter disregard for the “significant and undeniable psychological harm that will result,” all to further Eramo’s attempt “to extract money from Rolling Stone for reporting opinions about Plaintiff that the Office of Civil Rights has already concluded to be true,” says Jackie’s motion.
That refers to the agreement the civil rights office in the U.S. Department of Education reached in September with UVA following its investigation that found the university created a “hostile environment” for victims of sexual assault. Among other actions, UVA agreed to investigate all complaints heard for three previous years by the Sexual Misconduct Board, of which Eramo was head, to make sure they were handled appropriately.
Jackie cites her “fragile state” as a sexual assault victim as reason alone to quash the subpoena. But if she must be deposed, she wants to make sure Eramo’s suit survives a summary judgment, at which point she wants written questions, an order that prohibits counsel from disclosing the location of the deposition, no videotaping and the transcript of the deposition sealed under a protective order.
“I’ve never seen that,” says legal expert David Heilberg. He calls it “the Fourth Estate’s Frankenstein monster,” stemming from the media’s practice of protecting the identities of rape victims so as to not discourage them from coming forward to report sex crimes. “She’s asking for extraordinary relief,” he says. “Jackie, as has been reported in the press, is not your typical victim.”
Shortly after the article appeared and other media outlets began to investigate Jackie’s story, “it became apparent that Jackie’s claims were entirely false, and that she likely invented the supposed gang rape in order to gain the sympathy of a man she was romantically interested in and to cover for her failing grades,” says Eramo’s motion.
On March 23, 2015, Charlottesville Police concluded an investigation and said it found “no substantive basis of fact to conclude that an incident occurred” such as what was described in the Rolling Stone article, an investigation with which Jackie refused to cooperate.
Eramo says that when she first met with Jackie, the alleged victim “related a version of her supposed sexual assault that was very different from the tale” depicted in Rolling Stone.
Phi Kappa Psi has filed suit against Rolling Stone, as have two fraternity members.
Palma Pustilnik, one of five attorneys representing Jackie, says, “We’re still maintaining our position of ‘no comment.’” An attorney for Eramo did not return a phone call.
The limit on the length of time a third party such as Jackie can be deposed—seven hours—is to protect people who are not named in civil suits, says Heilberg. “Otherwise Fortune 500 companies would be able to depose people for days on end,” he says. “You have to convince a judge to allow more time.” Eramo wants a total of 6.5 hours.
A jury trial is scheduled for October 11.