Her lawyers argued that it would be too traumatizing to subject “Jackie,” if that’s really her name, to a deposition.
Lawyers for the former student, identified in the magazine only as Jackie, argued that having to relive the ordeal could traumatize her again. But the woman is a key figure in the lawsuit by Nicole P. Eramo, an associate dean, who says she was portrayed as the “chief villain” in the 2014 article.
Relive what ordeal? The one she lied about. The one that happened in her fantasies? The one she used to bootstrap her banal existence into national fame? Then notoriety when it was revealed she was a liar? That ordeal?
The good news was that the judge rejected the argument as a blanket justification to prevent her from being deposed.
Jackie’s attorneys had argued that she would be “re-victimized” by the deposition process and subjected to potentially “irreparable harm.” Judge Glen Conrad denied their motion and allotted the plaintiff’s attorneys five hours over a two-day period to question Jackie, with the possibility of additional time. The deposition will begin Thursday, and Conrad ruled that it would be held at a “mutually convenient location, with priority given to the convenience of and comfort” of Jackie. All the same, Jackie’s identity—and rationale—will remain as mysterious as they have since her account began to unravel in late 2014: Conrad added that the records and transcripts of the deposition will be sealed.
A deposition is a discovery mechanism where a witness, under oath, is asked questions by opposing lawyers before a court reporter (often videotaped as well), without judge or jury present. While objections as to the form of a question are allowed (so that a witness isn’t expected to answer an unclear question), other evidentiary objections are not, so that the questions can go beyond that which would be permitted in court. The nature of discovery mechanisms is to gain information about what happened, and that includes information that would lead to other, admissible evidence.
While Judge Conrad’s denial of the motion to quash is fine, he still allowed Jackie concessions that no other witness would be given. The length of the deposition is abbreviated. He ordered it to be sealed. Then, there is this bizarre condition, that “priority [be] given to the convenience of and comfort” of Jackie.
What does that even mean? Is she entitled to hold a comfort guinea pig while testifying? Should the lawyers give her a foot massage? Maybe 12 bathroom breaks per hour? Perhaps a venti mocha frappucino would be nice?
Under no other circumstances would a liar, a person who has deliberately harmed innocent people by her lies given to a conveniently receptive “reporter,” Sabrina Erdely, who would “believe” lies unconditionally, fact-check nothing, and announce them in as public a way as possible, get such treatment. Why should Jackie’s “comfort and convenience” matter to anyone? Why should her claims of trauma, “re”-victimization, matter at all?
There are very few people who enjoy being deposed. It’s no fun to be on the receiving end of an interrogation, especially if the lawyer asking the questions is any good at it. It’s traumatic, but it’s traumatic for everyone. The rule of law is that the law is entitled to every [person’s] evidence, and that includes liars. That incudes liars who falsely claim they were raped. And that includes Jackie.
And yet, here we are, perpetuating the pseudonym of a liar, with the blessing of the court.
Steve Coll, the dean of the Columbia Journalism School, told The Washington Post this January that he thinks that’s for the best: “It’s an unusual situation, and I understand the argument on the other side, but I would not name her … She never solicited Rolling Stone to be written about. She’s not responsible for the journalism mistakes. To name her now just feels gratuitous, lacking sufficient public purpose. That could change depending on how the legal cases unfold, but that’s my sense now.”
No, it is not an “unusual” situation. It’s only “unusual” if one squints really hard so that one can’t see that Jackie is no different than any person who lied, any person who falsely accused, any person who provided the false fodder that a believer would put into words to harm the lives of others. We’re not limited to one villain in this story. There are as many villains as there are people who did wrong. Everyone who did wrong is a villain. That includes Jackie.
Coll is right, of course, that the attention should stay on Rolling Stone and Erdely, who, unlike Jackie, had a clear responsibility to their readers—and it seems that Judge Conrad agrees. Jackie is not on trial this week, but if her full name and deposition were to be released, there’s no doubt that, in the public eye, she would be.
Nora Caplan-Bricker at Slate XX is right, that Judge Conrad agrees. That Coll offers some unprincipled, squishy, special concession is hardly a surprise, but that Judge Conrad went along is disturbing. If Jackie falsely accused someone of armed robbery, would she get to shield her identity? Would her deposition be sealed? Of course not, and Coll wouldn’t have been asked, no less have given the insipid response, “To name her now just feels gratuitous.” Feels? Oh yes, the legal principle of feels. That explains it.
Even Robby Soave at Reason tries to downplay the special concession:
It would be interesting, except that her deposition will take place behind closed doors and the transcripts will be sealed, according to CNN. Unless these records are released, we may never know what Jackie revealed once sworn under oath to tell the truth.
In any case, it’s gratifying that the judge rejected claims made by Jackie’s lawyers that she should be exempt from testifying because the process would “re-traumatize” her. We would all like to hear the truth, but Eramo, at least, is entitled to it.
It’s “gratifying” that Judge Conrad rejected the outrageously absurd argument that the perpetrator of the lie, the villain, should not be subject to deposition. But it’s hardly gratifying that she be treated any differently than any other liar, any other witness in litigation, any other person who falsely accused others of a crime that didn’t happen.
Is rape different? Is an allegation of a crime against a woman different? Some believe that’s so, that we should believe them regardless of whether they’re lying. That even when they’re lying, it’s somehow not as evil because they’re starting a dialogue. This is bullshit.
A false accusation is a false accusation, regardless of the gender of the liar, regardless of the nature of the lie. Jackie deserves to be treated exactly as would any other witness, any other villain. And contrary to what Robby says, her lies are not merely “interesting,” but critical to correct the public misperception of this supposed special distinction due fake “survivors” of rape and sexual assault. If there is any doubt about that, ask the real victims, the ones whose lives are destroyed by some lying liar’s lies.