“Jackie” — the student at the center of the now-discredited Rolling Stone article about the University of Virginia — is doubling down on her explosive claims that she was gang-raped by seven brothers at a prestigious UVa fraternity.
In videotaped deposition being played before the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Jackie said she’s sticking by the story she told Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely. That story was central to “A Rape on Campus,” Erdely’s November 2014 Rolling Stone story that’s now the subject of a $7.5 million defamation lawsuit. Former UVA Dean Nicole Eramo, the plaintiff in the suit, says the publication put her in the story “to personify the university’s alleged institutional indifference to rape.”
A disgraced Rolling Stone has since retracted the story after Jackie’s story largely fell apart. Local police also said they had “exhausted all investigative leads” and found nothing supporting Jackie’s claims. And after reviewing the story, a Columbia Graduate School of Journalism report claimed Rolling Stone failed to adhere to “basic, even routine journalistic practice.”
In her legal filings, Eramo called Jackie’s rape allegations “entirely false” and “likely invented… to gain the sympathy of a man she was romantically interested in and to cover for her failing grades.”
But Jackie’s lawyers have repeatedly called her a “sexual assault survivor.” And in her deposition, taped in April and aired yesterday, Jackie said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which has affected her memory.
“I stand by what I told Rolling Stone,” Jackie said. “I believed it to be true at the time.”
Even so, Jackie seemed to hedge many of her answers, according to Charlottesville Daily Progress reporter Dean Seal. “She never definitely said ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to any question,” he told public radio. “She would say, ‘I believe so,’ or ‘I do not think so.’”
Reuters reported yesterday that Rolling Stone issued a statement suggesting the trial has gone in the magazine’s favor so far. “The jury has heard abundant evidence that Erdely and Rolling Stone did not publish the article with actual malice,” it said. Intent to harm is a central consideration in defamation suits.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.