Breaking News Emails
Lawyers on Thursday are set to depose “Jackie,” a woman whose reported account of a gang rape at the University of Virginia touched off a firestorm of criticism when it was published in Rolling Stone, an article which has since been retracted.
The deposition is scheduled to be taken as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by an associate dean at the university, who claims she was unfairly portrayed and is suing for $7.8 million.
Here’s how the tale has played out.
‘A Rape on Campus'
On Nov. 19, 2014, Rolling Stone published online an article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely that reported an account supposedly by a former student only referred to as “Jackie.”
The account portrayed an alleged sexual assault against Jackie by seven men during a fraternity party in 2012, and reported peer pressure to not report the crime and an administration that was portrayed as indifferent.
The reaction was swift. The university's Inter-Fraternity Council suspended all social gatherings, a suspension that university President Teresa A. Sullivan extended for all fraternities and related activities until January 2015, calling the alleged assault portrayed in the article "appalling." Demonstrations were held on campus, and the fraternity house was vandalized.
In December of 2014, The Washington Post published an article raising questions about the account in the Rolling Stone article. A group of Jackie’s close friends told the Post that her story of the attack had changed over time.
In a major inconsistency, The Washington Post found, no current members of the fraternity or pledges at the time match the descriptions detailed of the alleged ringleader named "Drew" in the Rolling Stone account.
And a man that Jackie allegedly identified as one of the attackers, and who she reportedly said worked with her as a lifeguard, told the paper he was not a member of the fraternity and never met Jackie and never took her on a date as was claimed, the Post reported.
On Dec. 5, 2014, the same day that the Washington Post story was published, Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana said there appeared to be “discrepancies” in Jackie’s account.
"In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced," Dana said.
Breaking News Emails
The magazine asked the Columbia Journalism School to conduct a review of what went wrong. On April 5, 2015, the magazine formally retracted the article.
The Columbia review said the article violated “basic, even routine journalistic practice."
The author didn’t attempt to contact three of Jackie’s friends, who later denied quotations attributed to them.
One of those friends told NBC News it all could have been avoided if they had been interviewed. “I was also wondering why there was a quote attributed to me, that I had never given,” Ryan Duffin told NBC News.
Erdely apologized, saying "I allowed my concern for Jackie’s well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts."
The magazine published the Columbia review into how the article was published under the headline: "'A Rape on Campus' What Went Wrong.'"
Charlottesville police investigated but found no evidence of a sexual assault as described in the Rolling Stone article. Police Chief Timothy Longo said at the time that doesn't mean "something terrible didn't happen to Jackie."
"All I can tell you is there's no substantive basis to conclude that what is described in that article happened that night," Longo said. Victims advocates and campus groups said that even if the account was cast into question, they hoped it didn't serve to cast doubt on other victims of sexual assault on campuses.
At least three lawsuits have been filed in connection with the since retracted article.
Eramo, the associate dean, filed a suit against Erdely, Rolling Stone and Wenner Media seeking at least $7.5 million in compensatory damages and at least $350,000 in punitive damages and attorney fees.
Eramo accused Erdely and Rolling Stone of casting her as the “chief villain” in the story.
In the article, Jackie asks Eramo for details about sexual assault at the university. Jackie quotes Eramo as saying the statistics were not public "because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school."
On Tuesday, a Virginia judge ordered that Jackie undergo questioning at a deposition, where she will be questioned for up to 3.5 hours each by attorneys for Eramo and the magazine and other defendants.
Attorneys representing Jackie opposed the deposition, saying in court papers that an aggressive deposition will re-traumatize her, and noting that she isn't being sued.
"Forcing her 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 mental health," the attorneys wrote in a court filing last week.
Other lawsuits have also been filed. The fraternity named as where the alleged attack occurred filed a $25 million lawsuit against the author and the magazine in November.
In July, three UVA grads filed a lawsuit alleging that even though none of the alleged attackers were identified in the article, speculation on social media and elsewhere led to them being labelled as participants in the assault.