Rolling Stone’s “Jackie”: Deposed, But Still Too Precious

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.


29 thoughts on “Rolling Stone’s “Jackie”: Deposed, But Still Too Precious

  1. Billy Bob

    You mean, relive the “ordeal” of lying. It’s not easy being sleazy. Some are better at it than others. In any case, it’s not acceptable. Not in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Ha.

      1. Billy Bob

        We have a speed-limit IQ, not to mention occasional synapse relapse. Testilying will not be tolerated, and perjurors will be painfully persecuted to the full extent of the law.

  2. Wensilver

    I’m following this case with interest, especially since Libby Locke is handling Eramo’s defamation. She is also (former) PSU President Spanier’s lawyer in his defamation case against Louis Freeh. The media is so quick to inflame and defame, rush to judge and torch reputations – all for cheap web hits and clicks – and then explain away that damage as being done by “opinions”. Erdely did it. Freeh did it. (Well, Freeh’s business model is to help a corporate client get themselves out of the shits they find themselves in by packaging a narrative FOR the media, using the imprimatur of his “FBI” credentials, but I digress)

    I have to ask where are Jackie’s parents in all this? Lawsuits are incredibly time consuming and draining of not only financial resources – but social and emotional resources as well – is her family being brought into this mess financially? Have her parents ever made a statement about their daughter? It’s insane the damage that can be done to individual and institutional reputations by one young adult and an enabling media.

    1. SHG Post author

      First, what makes you think that this is all about you, such that you bring Louie Freeh into this? Second, what makes you think this is all about you, such that your interest in Jackie’s parents matters? Jackie’s not special. Neither are you. Maybe your therapist will be fascinated with your free association, but I’m not.

    2. Jim Tyre

      I’m following this case with interest

      Has anyone ever said that they’re following a case without interest? Just wonderin’

  3. losingtrader

    “The one she used to bootstrap her banal existence into national fame?”

    Poor spelling. There’s an extra “b” in there somewhere

    “What does that even mean? Is she entitled to hold a comfort guinea pig while testifying? ”

    Unfair. My emotional support dog has an emotional support rabbit , which has an emotional support guinea pig, which has an emotional support ferret. RGK has already told me they won’t be allowed in his court, but he likes to shoot rabbits anyway, and might collapse my chain of emotional support–so he would be recused.

    At the risk of owing you additional pears, isn’t Jackie potentially subject to a criminal charge, thus allowing her to refuse to answer during the deposition (which I assume is being conducted with her sitting behind her bedroom door)?
    Snide comments may result in fruitcake, not fruit.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yes, she most assuredly has reason to assert her 5th Amendment rights. And don’t threaten me with fruitcake.

      1. Ryan Probasco

        I don’t believe there is a 5th amendment issue. I didn’t think Jackie ever made a police report of the false rape, which is the only criminal charge I’m familiar with that could be relevant.

        I think the whole discovery dispute over her records and deposition length could have been avoided if she was just made a party to the lawsuit and named fully in the Complaint. I still don’t know why this wasn’t done, at least for discovery purposes. If the Plaintiff wanted to drop her before trial, because of optics, they could have. Also, the Plaintiff’s didn’t use Jackie’s full name in the Complaint, and thus conceded the issue of the sensitivity of her identity and gave priority “‘to the convenience of and comfort’ of Jackie.”.

      1. SHG Post author

        As it happens, I know for a fact they are different people. I cannot, however, swear to the fact that they aren’t maternally related.

  4. bmaz

    We actually have a presumed maximum deep length of four hours in AZ absent stipulation of parties or order of the court. But I find no such provision in VA procedure, so the judge really did make an extraordinary provision for the perpetrator Jackie.

  5. delurking

    Does the law recognize mental illness of a witness as sufficient justification for special treatment?

  6. mb

    Eramo is a victim only of her own bullshit. Certainly Haven Monahan would challenge her claim that she was portrayed as the “chief villain” were it not for his lack of actual existence. Surely the innocent frat boys who were blindsided by these public accusations, had their property vandalized, their educations disrupted, their organization protested, and their lives threatened (because of people like Eramo) were the “chief villains” of the narrative.

    Eramo, Erdely, and Jackie deserve each other. I don’t care what Jackie says in her deposition, because there is no reason for even the most basic presumption that there is any truth value at all in anything said by any of these three women. No one should give them the minimal respect that we presumptively give to other humans. They all fully deserve to be shunned for the rest of their lives.

    1. SHG Post author

      So you didn’t take your Ritalin today either? It makes no difference whether Eramo is wonderful or horrible. Focus. And I’ll take extra sprinkles.

      1. mb

        She can have access to the courts. I don’t care. I just don’t feel gratified about it or incensed that she has to shovel through the same kind of bullshit she flings at everyone else.

          1. mb

            Right, and the Gawker case wasn’t about Gawker. And I understand and completely agree. Forgive me if I celebrate when SJWs get hoisted by their own petard. Obviously the courts can’t function if every self proclaimed “victim” is exempted from their authority. But what’s the worst thing that could lead to? Total lawlessness?

            1. SHG Post author

              You can celebrate whatever you like. That doesn’t change what the post is about. Kinda clear that this is about the judge’s order for Jackie’s deposition, not about how the plaintiff in the case also happens to be a hypocrite and SJW.

  7. Greg

    Jackie’s real name is “Jackie”, and her full name is easily found on the internet. I’m curious to know why you aren’t using it. A concern that the internet might be wrong?

    1. SHG Post author

      If I had it, I would have used it. I was not sufficiently interested in outing her to search for her name, but there is nothing about being a false rape accuser that would have prevented me from naming her.

  8. Dragoness Eclectic

    “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.”

    Is this statement qualified, or does it have some special lawyerese meaning that us common folk are unaware of? On the face of it, it’s factually wrong. In the ongoing civil suit down here in Louisiana over who inherits the Saints NFL team, the judge agreed to Benson’s lawyers’ request that his deposition be limited to 5 hours, because of his age and ill-health.

    1. SHG Post author

      Age and ill-health are medical conditions. Hurt feelings for being outed as a liar are not. The ability to distinguish between the two requires higher order thinking, not special legalese. Common folks are aware of it. But not all, apparently. My fault for not spelling it out with sufficient detail for the easy understanding of all.

      1. Dragoness Eclectic

        However, that is not what you wrote. You made an absolute statement (“no other witness would be given”) that contradicted facts that even a non-lawyer like me has heard. I was surprised that you would say that; either you were less than clear in your writing, or that part of my brain that likes to seize on an ambiguous statement and interpret it in the way no one else in the world does is busy again today.

        p.s. I credit you with encouraging me to check my facts and argue with people, rather than looking for tummy rubs.

        1. SHG Post author

          You’re the first person to take issue with it. Maybe I’m unworthy of your reading time due to my imprecise writing. Yes, that’s it. I do not deserve to have you waste your time with my drivel. I will miss you.

          1. Dragoness Eclectic

            Nonsense, I see the potential in you! It’s not drivel, you shouldn’t treat yourself so harshly. Here, have a tummy rub.

            However, I will shut up for today.

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