Jackie, the center of Rolling Stone’s discredited fraternity gang-rape story at the University of Virginia, wants to be excused from an under-oath deposition. The Washington Post reports that her attorneys say, “Forcing [Jackie] to revisit her sexual assault, and then the re-victimization that took place after the Rolling Stone article came out, will inevitably lead to a worsening of her symptoms and current mental health.”
The deposition would be part of a defamation suit brought by UVA associate dean Nicole Eramo against Rolling Stone — she disputes the magazine’s “portrayal of her counsel to Jackie [after the alleged rape] as callous and indifferent.”
Now look, there’s no question that Jackie — that’s how she’s identified in the court documents — has had a rough year. At the very least, she found herself caught up in a web of homespun lies and didn’t know how to extricate herself from the situation. She may very well be suffering from some sort of medically diagnosable depression or anxiety that contributed to her decision to deceive almost everyone around her (I am, of course, not a doctor and am in no position to make any such diagnosis). And just because the published Rolling Stone account has been thoroughly debunked, that doesn’t necessarily preclude Jackie having suffered a separate sexual-assault incident. But by no means should she be excused from doing her part to clean up the mess she had a hand in making.
One can have a measure of sympathy for Jackie, I certainly do, and understand that she is not the primary victim in the situation — the men of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity were accused of being brutal rapists and had their names dragged through the mud, Eramo and the UVA staff were accused of caring more about the reputation of the university than the wellbeing of a young student who was claiming to have been raped, and even Jackie’s friends were portrayed as shallow, indifferent snobs more concerned with their social standing than their friend.
None of this turned out to be true. And to be clear, Jackie still stands by the claim that she was raped — the Post reports Jackie’s attorneys were approached by Eramo’s legal team “with a proposal that would have eliminated the need for the student to participate in a deposition.”
Eramo’s attorneys proposed that if Jackie admitted that she ‘was not in fact sexually assaulted at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on September 28, 2012,’ then the questioning on that matter could be shortened in the deposition. According to court documents, Jackie’s lawyers ‘flatly rejected’ the offer.
Moreover, Jackie’s attorneys claim that a deposition would center on “deeply personal matters” that would violate her privacy. “That contention is ridiculous,” one of Eramo’s attorneys told the Post (the newspaper notes that Jackie repeatedly talked to Rolling Stone and the Washington Post on the subject of the alleged rape.)
“The only thing different now is that Jackie’s deposition answers will be under oath and Jackie will be compelled to tell the truth,” Eramo’s attorney told the Post. “Unfortunately, that is something that Jackie and her lawyers have been trying to avoid all along.”
Allowing Jackie to avoid being deposed would create a moral hazard in future cases. The claim that one party’s emotional injury — stemming from having to confront the causes of actual damage to a second party — should excuse the former of his or her legal responsibilities is bunk. Allowing Jackie to avoid a deposition in this case would set up a go-to strategy for cynical operators in the future: Lie about something, then, after being called on it, claim that revisiting the lie would cause emotional damage/distress, etc.
Jackie refused to file a police report (even after, according to the Post, a UVA staff member drove her to the police station) but was willing to talk to two national publications where she made scurrilous accusations against individuals and institutions — she should now sit for the deposition that Eramo hopes will help clear her name.