An update in University Dean Nicole Eramo’s defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone, writer Sabrina Erdely and Wenner Media alleges that Jackie and her attorneys have knowingly withheld relevant documents in violation of a court order. Eramo’s legal counsel say the documents reveal that Jackie is in fact the creator of the pseudonym Haven Monahan.
On May 16, Eramo’s counsel filed a motion for leave to submit a supplemental brief to compel non-party respondent Jackie to turn over all communications associated with the alias “Haven Monahan.”
Eramo’s counsel allege Jackie — the primary source for the now-retracted Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus,” which led to the defamation suit — created a fake online persona under the pseudonym “Haven Monahan.” The counsel also allege that under this pseudonym, Jackie communicated with Ryan Duffin — a classmate and friend of Jackie in 2012 — in a catfishing scheme. Jackie claimed Monahan was the perpetrator of the alleged Sept. 2012 sexual assault detailed in the article.
In January, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia ordered Jackie’s compliance with the plaintiff's Rule 45 Subpoena, which demanded she disclose or produce all communications between “Haven Monahan” and Duffin.
The Court also ordered Jackie to turn over communications between Monahan and any other individual whose name was disclosed to the defendants, in addition to any communications mentioning Monahan between Jackie and any disclosed individual.
The Court acknowledged the evidence suggesting Jackie had personally authored communications under the alias “Haven Monahan,” yet the alleged communications were never produced to the Court by Jackie or her counsel at the Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner law firm.
According to the supplemental brief filed by the plaintiff, Jackie’s counsel repeatedly claimed that “she is not in possession, custody or control of such documents.”
However, Eramo’s counsel subpoenaed Yahoo for records associated with the email account “firstname.lastname@example.org.” The subpoena revealed the email account was created at an IP address associated with the University in October 2012 and was also accessed most recently by an IP address associated with the firm currently representing Jackie on March 18 of this year.
“This newly discovered information suggests that Jackie and her counsel have not been forthcoming with Plaintiff or this Court when continually and repeatedly representing that they are not in possession of documents responsive to Demand No. 15 of Plaintiff’s Rule 45 Subpoena, and raises new questions about their failure to comply with this Court’s Jan. 25, 2016 Order,” the brief says.
Libby Locke — a representative of Clare Locke LLP and one of Eramo’s lawyers — said the documents recovered by the subpoena of Yahoo “clearly demonstrates that Jackie is, in fact, Haven Monahan.”
Details regarding the pseudonym Haven Monahan would have been relevant to establishing the credibility of Jackie as the primary source for the article “A Rape On Campus,” Locke said.
“Had Rolling Stone not purposefully avoided speaking with Jackie’s friends who were with her on the night of the alleged attack, Rolling Stone would have realized that Jackie, who was the primary source for their false and defamatory article, was not a credible source for information,” Locke said in an email statement.
Duffin said he believes the pseudonym was created by Jackie in an effort to attract Duffin’s romantic attention.
Duffin exchanged messages with “Monahan,” who said Jackie had a crush on Duffin, who, like Jackie, was also a first-year at the time. Jackie later identified Monahan as the perpetrator of the alleged Sept. sexual assault, Duffin said.
“I initially became a little bit suspicious probably a week after the assault,” Duffin said. “‘Haven’ messaged me a few days after the assault, and that struck me as odd. But the overarching question that I was thinking about at the time was, ‘Why would you make it all up?’”
The importance of Haven’s identity is difficult to overstate and calls into question the validity of Jackie’s entire claim, Duffin said.
“At this point I think it’s really, really difficult to look at all the evidence that has come out and think something happened,” Duffin said. “The simplest explanation is usually the right one. I find it difficult to come up with any explanation other than it was all fabricated.”
Duffin said he was deposed for Eramo’s lawsuit in April and expects to be deposed for Phi Kappa Psi’s suit against Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely.
University Law Prof. Kent Sinclair said Jackie may face a formal charge of contempt of court for failing to comply with the a court order to produce documents in her possession.
“The court has inherent power to penalize somebody with a penalty of contempt, which can include monetary measures or — in drastic measures — locking somebody up until they provide the information,” Sinclair said.
Jackie’s counsel may also face sanctions if their actions are deemed incompetent or out of compliance by the judge.
“If they file papers that are not properly complete — or obviously if they lie — there would be sanctions,” Sinclair said. “If they fail to have a factual basis for what they are saying, there are penalties the court could impose.”
Locke said the most recent supplemental brief includes a request for monetary compensation for failure to comply.
“We have asked the court to impose attorney fees and costs associated with having to move to compel compliance with the court’s order,” Locke said.
Legal counsel for Jackie at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society declined to comment for this article and counsel from the Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner law firm did not respond to request for comment.
The court has yet to rule on the plaintiff’s motion.