UVA Dean Defamed In Rolling Stone Article Takes On Major Feminist Organization

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The University of Virginia dean who is suing Rolling Stone for defamation has asked a federal judge to force the National Organization for Women (NOW) to turn over its correspondence with lawyers for the woman whose false rape claims are the centerpiece of the debunked article, “A Rape on Campus.”

Attorneys for the dean, Nicole Eramo, allege that NOW, the largest feminist group in the U.S., and the lawyers for the false rape accuser, Jackie Coakley (“Jackie”), engaged in a “publicity stunt” by jointly crafting a Jan. 6, 2016 open letter criticizing Eramo for “re-victimiz[ing]” the fabulist.

Defendants in the $7.5 million lawsuit — which include Rolling Stone and its reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely — have indicated that they plan to introduce the letter as evidence in the case.

But the letter is a case of self-dealing, suggests Eramo’s lawyer, Thomas Clare. And he is asking the federal court to force NOW to comply with a subpoena for its communications with Jackie’s attorneys at the firm Stein Mitchell.

“The fact that Jackie’s counsel encouraged and participated in the drafting and publication of the Open Letter…shows that the Open Letter is not a trustworthy and independent analysis of the Article,” writes Clare, a partner with the firm Clare Locke.

“These communications are relevant,” Clare writes, because they will show that the “unfounded criticisms” in the open letter “are not NOW’s own beliefs, but rather a publicity stunt manufactured by Jackie’s counsel to attack Movant and undermine her efforts to obtain relevant discovery from Jackie.”

Eramo has faced numerous roadblocks in her attempt to compel discovery from Jackie, who has gone into hiding.

The former UVA student has refused to produce emails and text messages that she exchanged during the time period of her fabricated rape claims and with Erdely.

In “A Rape on Campus,” published on Nov. 19, 2014, Jackie told Rolling Stone’s Erdely that on the night of Sept. 26, 2012 she was brutally gang-raped at a UVA fraternity party. The piece went viral and led to the suspension of the fraternity identified in the article. The fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, and several of its former members, are also suing Rolling Stone and Erdely.

Sabrina Rubin Erdely YouTube screenshot/PBS NewsHour

Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely (YouTube screen grab)

While Jackie is portrayed as the protagonist in Erdely’s 9,000-word article, Eramo is painted as one of its main villains.

The now-disgraced reporter — seemingly reporting based on what Jackie told her — accused Eramo of ignoring Jackie’s requests for help. She also quoted Eramo as saying that the school fudges rape statistics because it doesn’t want to be known as “the rape school.”

Eramo now says that the article has destroyed her reputation and that Erdely and Rolling Stone failed to properly check Jackie’s claims.

Jackie’s story flamed out weeks after Erdely’s article was published. Three friends mentioned by pseudonym in the article — but who were not contacted prior to publication — came forward to say that Jackie’s story had changed dramatically in the two years since her alleged attack. It was also discovered that Jackie created a false boyfriend named “Haven Monahan” in order to win the affections of one of the three friends she contacted on the night of her alleged attack.

Erdely’s reporting methods — as well as Rolling Stone’s oversight — also came under heavy scrutiny. Erdely failed to conduct basic fact-checking. She did not find out the identities of any of the people Jackie claimed raped her or those that she said came to her aid on the night of the attack.

Despite all of the damning evidence against Jackie, NOW came to her defense in its open letter earlier this year calling her — without a shred of evidence — “a sexual assault survivor.”

Entitled “An Open Letter to UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan,” NOW’s president Terry O’Neill addressed “deeply disturbing actions by one of your Deans against a sexual assault survivor and member of the UVA community.” (RELATED: National Organization For Women Defends Rolling Stone Gang Rape Fabricator)

“It is exactly this kind of victim blaming and shaming that fosters rape culture, re-victimizes those brave enough to have come forward, and silences countless other victims,” she continued.

“We are writing to request that you put a stop to what we regard as a re-victimization of this young woman.”

O’Neill also said that Eramo’s subpoenas for Jackie’s emails and text messages “display a very troubling pattern of abuse towards ‘Jackie.'”

Jackie was finally deposed in April.

Eramo’s lawyers assert that Jackie’s lawyers, of the firm Stein Mitchell, had a hand in crafting that open letter.

“Counsel for Jackie, including attorneys at Stein Mitchell, contacted NOW to encourage and assist with the drafting and publication of the Open Letter in order to manufacture public support for Jackie’s defiance of Movant’s legitimate and appropriate discovery requests,” they write.

Communications between NOW and Jackie’s lawyers should be provided in discovery because Rolling Stone plans to use it as a defense against Eramo’s defamation suit, Clare, Eramo’s lawyer, writes.

Rolling Stone’s lawyers “have questioned several witnesses about the Open Letter in depositions and have used the Open Letter as an exhibit in several depositions,” the new court papers read.

“Most recently, Defendants stated that they believe the Open Letter to be relevant and that they will reserve the right to attempt to introduce the Open Letter in support of their defenses ‘either on summary judgment and/or in connection with any trial.'”

NOW has admitted to possessing communications with Stein Mitchell “relate[d] to [the] NOW Open Letter.” But they have objected to turning over the documents, claiming that they are not relevant to the case and would be burdensome to produce.

Clare objected to both claims, saying that the communications are relevant and would not be difficult to produce.

He wrote that NOW refused to turn over the documents on June 7.

Lawyers for NOW did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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