Privileged to privacy?: As Rolling Stone lawsuits continue, ‘Jackie’ remains unnamed

Jackie says Nicole Eramo’s attorneys shouldn’t get to depose her because of her “fragile” state as a sexual assault victim. Jackie says Nicole Eramo’s attorneys shouldn’t get to depose her because of her “fragile” state as a sexual assault victim.

In the aftermath of a discredited Rolling Stone story about a gang rape that shook UVA students and faculty and spawned three lawsuits against the magazine and the author of the article, the woman at the center of the controversy, “Jackie,” remains unnamed in the media and in legal documents.

University of Virginia Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, who says the piece cast her as the “chief villain” of the story and accused her of discouraging sexual assault victims from reporting rape, filed a $7.5 million defamation suit against Rolling Stone and reporter Sabrina Erdely in May, and has reportedly waited four months for Jackie, the alleged victim of the story, to turn over communications records.

Eramo’s lawyers requested access to several of Jackie’s communications in July, including all of those that make reference to herself as a sexual assault victim at UVA, as well as her correspondence with Rolling Stone and Erdely. After Jackie didn’t comply, Eramo filed a motion to compel her to turn over the communications.

In a hearing over the motion held in Alexandria December 4, the judge deferred a decision on the motion until it could be taken up in Charlottesville by the presiding judge on the case. Jackie’s lawyer, Palma Pustilnik, fought disclosing this information, saying that turning over these communications would be a breach of her client’s privacy. She is also filing a motion opposing the subpoena on the grounds that Jackie was not a named party in the lawsuit.

According to legal expert David Heilberg, though, the subpoena is valid whether Jackie is a party in the lawsuit. “Any third party that has relevant records to the case, you can get,” he says. Heilberg also disagrees with Pustilnik’s claim to privacy, saying neither Jackie nor Erdely has the right to privacy where this information is concerned.

“I don’t think there’s any claim to privacy in a civil suit of this kind,” Heilberg says. “Neither right to privacy nor journalistic privilege are strong enough to keep [Eramo’s lawyers] from getting the information they need.”

Communications between Jackie and her lawyer are private, says Heilberg. However, because the requested communications are primarily between Jackie and the magazine, this same privacy does not apply. “With a reporter,” he explains, “there is no such privilege.”

In a case with so many claiming harm from Jackie’s account, the question remains why she continues to go unnamed in legal procedures and the media. Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and a media ethics expert, says it is a “tradition” of media organizations to leave out the names of sexual assault victims whether their account has been proven accurate.

“The standards that courts use in determining guilt or innocence are not the same as finding out whether or not someone was treated to degrading behavior,” Wasserman explains. “Behavior that, if her name was revealed, she may receive harm or shame from.”

Rolling Stone’s failure to adequately scrutinize Jackie’s allegations was “the most egregious misconduct” in the case, not Jackie’s partial or complete fabrication of the events, says Wasserman.

“In a perverse way, Rolling Stone was the enabler of this,” Wasserman says. “If they had done their job, we wouldn’t be having this conversation of whether or not to expose the woman.”

While from a legal standpoint Wasserman believes there is not much reason to conceal Jackie’s identity, especially considering the misinformation she gave to Rolling Stone, he raises the question of what purpose exposing her would serve.

“There is a context here; we don’t really know how much of what this woman told the reporter was true,” Wasserman says. “But there’s something about it that suggests that this is a very troubled person who’s probably been victimized at some point who stands to be harmed, perhaps needlessly, by exposure.”

C-VILLE Weekly has chosen not to release Jackie’s name at this time because we do not name victims of sexual assault.

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Douglas R. Williams
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Douglas R. Williams

Wow, what an Orwellian piece of crap: “Should we really be protecting the identity of a rape hoax perpetrator? No, but we can’t name her because we don’t name rape victims.”

Jackie Coakley. Say her name.

typingperson
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typingperson

But she’s not a victim of sexual assault.

matt10023
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matt10023

Of course the woman who accused the Duke lacrosse team was not allowed to remain private in the media. Perhaps this is an example of white privilege? Black women get outed when it’s a hoax. White women are given the benefit of the doubt?

Mitchina
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Mitchina

Alleged rape victims and proven liar is allegedly names Jackie Coakley. Committing a crime of false allegations does not deserve protections and if you claim it in national poblic, then there is no reason not to claim it in court – unless you are lying… otherwise don’t spout it from the top of a mountain and expect privacy.

Mitchina
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Mitchina

Well so glad to see her life turned out peachy keen while she left a wake of lies and misery behind her.

Mitchina
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Mitchina

Wow, the left must be paralyzed from being in this quandry. Which victim group do they really support? Shoes again how manufactured their so called causes are.
.

rk29
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rk29

Hard to understand what you are getting at but ultimately it is the job of the publication to corroborate a story as factual before publishing. Jackie was clearly disturbed and unreliable and a high school newspaper reporter could have used social media to fact check and then determine the story shouldn’t have been written.

The author put her agenda first and the editor allowed it. The buck stops with him.

Mitchina
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Mitchina

This is also true – but there is still the initial crime committed before anything else happened and if a court of law wants to provide her protection from prosecution for reason of insanity or mental illness, then that is what needs to happen through a court, not just an general arbitrary psychological arm chair summation from by standers.

rk29
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rk29

What crime? Jackie didn’t publicly name someone or write an article about it. Is she to blame? – absolutely – but it wasn’t her article that created the firestorm and she didn’t violate pretty much every point of journalistic integrity. Yes she should be evaluated, but ultimately she made up a story that Rolling Stone ran with. Rolling Stone wanted this story to be true. They published it and knew it was filled with holes. The story never made sense. It was a formal dated function and there would have been no shortage of info about the event on social… Read more »

Mitchina
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Mitchina

Jackie went to a reporter and repeatedly defamed Virginia Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo. That is a crime and that is all I am saying. How else does one systematically ruin someone’s reputation and their life? Standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign? Handing out flyers all over the country? It was a national smear campaign and it was all brought on by Jackie. I totally agree with your assessment on the magazine and reporter – not a single disagreement from me on that but stop giving Jackie a pass. If a court of law wants to… Read more »

rk29
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rk29

She went to the reporter as much as the reporter went to her. The reporter is why the story got legs and they committed libel. The reporter used her and should have clearly seen that the story was bogus. Jackie didn’t write the story or launch it. If Rolling Stone doesn’t run the story, it has no reach. They had the responsibility here. Is she a liar, yes. What was the repercussion of her actions though? Without Rolling Stone, nothing happens. Rolling Stone being more responsible doesn’t mean Jackie has no responsibility though. You could in theory sue her for… Read more »

Mitchina
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Mitchina

Slander is spoken defamation, this was liable; written defamation. Justice should be sought out in every case; a judge or jury or your peers will arbitrate this justice. Being held accountable looks like this; if she is crazy then they will call it. If she is not then she should be accountable for your criminal actions. It’s pretty simple. To prove this 4 criteria must be met for a libel (written defamation) suit to stand a chance of success – which she did succeed with the mag but really won’t move forward on a civil; however I believe Jackie should… Read more »