“Jackie,” the woman at the center of a debunked gang-rape claim sensationally published by Rolling Stone magazine, will have to “substantially comply” with a subpoena from attorneys representing the fraternity named in the article.
Jackie, whose last name is not included in court documents, told Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely she was gang raped by seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity when she was a freshman at the University of Virginia. She claimed she had gone on a date with a member, who took her to a party at the fraternity house and lured her into an upstairs bedroom where he directed other fraternity members to rape her.
The original story was published in November 2014, but within a month doubts began to emerge, leading to a retraction from Rolling Stone, an investigation of what went wrong from by Columbia Journalism Review, and three lawsuits. The most well-known of those lawsuits was filed by University of Virginia dean Nicole Eramo, who was the only named villain in the article.
Eramo’s attorneys successfully argued that Jackie needed to turn over documents relating to her interviews with Erdely, and last November, a jury ordered Rolling Stone, its publisher and the author to pay the former dean $3 million in damages. Documents released during the trial revealed Erdely’s bias against fraternity members and belief that campus sexual assault is prevalent, which led to her lack of investigation into whether Jackie’s claims were true.
Erdely never confirmed that the man who allegedly orchestrated the gang rape actually existed, and didn’t seek out Jackie’s friends who were there for her the night of the alleged rape. Instead, she relied solely on Jackie’s word of what those friends said, and claimed she had spoken to one of them about Erdely’s article. The friends disputed Jackie’s claims of what happened, and said they hadn’t spoken to her in years.
A second lawsuit against Rolling Stone was brought in July 2015 by three members of Phi Psi, who alleged there was enough information in the article to identify them. A judge disagreed, writing: “Their defamation claims are directed toward a report about events that simply did not happen.”
The third lawsuit was filed in November 2015 by the UVA chapter of Phi Psi, and has been in limbo while Eramo’s lawsuit moved forward. Now the case is working its way through the system, and a judge has again ruled that Jackie must comply with a subpoena to turn over documents relating to the case. An attorney for Phi Psi said Monday they’re seeking a “broader area of inquiry” than what was requested by Eramo.
Jackie’s claims about a gang rape fell apart once it was discovered that the man she allegedly had a date with on that night didn’t exist. She had made him up using a photo of a high school classmate and a fake text message service. There was also no party at the fraternity house the night in question. And Jackie’s story changed in material ways over the years, leading to doubts from her own friends.
The original article sparked outrage across the country and led to protests at UVA, including the vandalization of the Phi Psi house.
The fraternity will have its day in court starting Oct. 23, likely bolstered by Eramo’s win.