An employee at the University of Virginia who was a key figure in the now-debunked Rolling Stone article about a gang rape at the school has been appointed to a state commission to develop sentencing guidelines for felons.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed Emily Renda, a project coordinator and Vice President for the Student Affairs Office at UVA, to one of the open slots on the state’s 17-member Criminal Sentencing Commission.
In an email obtained by The Daily Caller through an open records request, Katherine Waddell, a special adviser to the Virginia secretary of state, extended an effusive invitation to Renda on behalf of McAuliffe on Dec. 11.
“Thank you very much for serving on the Governor’s Task Force to Combat Sexual Violence on College Campuses,” Waddell wrote Renda, referring to another group to which McAuliffe appointed Renda in August. “He is most appreciative of your service to the Commonwealth.”
Renda’s involvement in the Rolling Stone debacle began last summer when she put the magazine’s reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely in touch with a friend — and fellow activist — named Jackie.
Jackie claimed that she was brutally gang-raped by seven fraternity members on campus in 2012 and that university officials failed to properly investigate.
Erdely’s article generated massive outrage when it was published on Nov. 19. UVA president Teresa Sullivan suspended the accused fraternity, whose chapter house was vandalized.
By the time Waddell contacted Renda, the Rolling Stone article had fallen under intense scrutiny.
“Presently we are completing appointments to the Criminal Sentencing Commission,” Waddell wrote to Renda. “As you can see below, the profile states that one of the Governor’s members shall be a representative of a crime victims’ organization or a victim of crime. The Governor would be most grateful if you would consider this commission and submit your application.”
“Please consider this important commission — you would be an outstanding addition.”
The Sentencing Commission’s purpose is to develop, implement and administer felony sentencing guidelines that are used to handle felony cases throughout the state.
Renda’s term will last through December 2018.
As Jackie’s story was debunked, Renda defended her role in the debacle, saying that as an advocate for victims of sexual assault, it was not her job to second-guess Jackie’s claims.
“An advocate is not supposed to be an investigator, a judge or an adjudicator,” Renda told The Washington Post in an article published Dec. 5.
Renda first met Jackie through her advocacy work in 2013. During a Senate hearing in June, following a stint as a consultant for the White House’s Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, Renda cited Jackie’s story during her testimony.
Except she claimed that Jackie — whom Renda called “Jenna” at the time — had claimed to have been raped by five men instead of seven. (RELATED: Emails Show UVA Coordinator Hoped To Put ‘Positive People’ In Touch With Rolling Stone Reporter)
Despite that change in Jackie’s story, Renda still put her in touch with Erdely.
“I don’t even know what I believe at this point,” Renda told The Post in December.
“This feels like a betrayal of good advocacy if this is not true,” Renda said. “We teach people to believe the victims. We know there are false reports, but those are extraordinarily low.” (RELATED: UVA Rape Activist Worked At White House)
Renda’s involvement in the article raises questions over whether she is suited for a role on the sentencing commission.
“Ms. Renda should realize that accusations of rape are life-changing,” Charlotte Hayes, the director of cultural programs at the Independent Women’s Forum, told TheDC. “It’s not ‘second-guessing’ accusers to take an objective look and ask questions about what they said. Doing this is commonsense, not an affront to a Victorian damsel who can bear to present her charges to an objective third party.”
“In the future, Ms. Renda should encourage people to to go the police instead of Rolling Stone.”
Waddell did not return TheDC’s request for comment.