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Judge throws out deposition testimony videos in Eramo case

Trial may be postponed to find new location

<p>Former Associate Dean Nicole Eramo's lawsuit is set to begin Oct. 17, but may be pushed back due to the recent motions.&nbsp;</p>

Former Associate Dean Nicole Eramo's lawsuit is set to begin Oct. 17, but may be pushed back due to the recent motions. 

A judge agreed to throw out deposition testimony videos as court exhibits Tuesday after former Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo and her attorneys released them to ABC for a “20/20” television segment set to broadcast Friday, Oct. 14, three days before the trial is set to begin.

Attorneys for Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Wenner Media, Inc. filed the emergency motion for sanctions against Eramo and her attorneys on Monday. The motion included the sanction which makes Eramo and her attorneys unable to use any deposition testimony — whether written transcripts or videos — during the trial.

“Courts recognize the unnecessary embarrassment and unfairness to a party or witness that can ensue if their video testimony is publicly released,” the defendants said in court documents. “Courts have likewise found that there are strong public policy reasons to not release deposition videos, particularly when courtroom proceedings themselves cannot be recorded.”

The videos in question show Erdely crying at her deposition. ABC’s trailer for the “20/20” broadcast shows the footage of Erdely’s deposition, along with footage of interviews with former students such as Alex Stock, one of Jackie’s friends and a witness in the upcoming trial.

“Now, for the first time, those at center of the scandal speak,” the trailer for the broadcast said.

Eramo and her attorneys filed an expedited opposition to the motion for sanctions explaining the release of the videos was justified because the videos shared were already part of public record. According to the plaintiff, the videos were not designated as confidential under the Protective Order issued last November.

“The parties — including Defendants — specifically removed Confidential designations from significant portions of their witnesses’ deposition testimony precisely so that testimony could be filed publicly,” Eramo’s attorneys said in court documents.

The plaintiffs also argued the videos given to ABC were edited to exclude information deemed confidential and therefore did not violate the court’s Protective Order.

Rolling Stone’s lawyers cited the importance of gathering an unbiased jury as a major reason for pulling the deposition videos out of the trial. Given the attention to the “A Rape on Campus” article in the Charlottesville area, the defendants claimed the court cannot assemble a proper jury and continue to use the videos as exhibits in the courtroom following the “20/20” broadcast.

“Undoubtedly, many citizens in the Charlottesville Division will watch this sensationalized television broadcast about the University located in their backyard, or will access the program online,” Rolling Stone’s lawyers said in court documents. “In the aftermath, seating an impartial jury in Charlottesville will be difficult, if not impossible.”

The other sanctions proposed by the defendants include ordering Eramo and her attorneys to inform the court what video evidence was leaked to ABC and other third parties and to pay costs and fees for possibly having to move the time and location of the Oct. 17 trial, according to court documents.

“If the 20/20 broadcast airs as scheduled, the Court should transfer venue and postpone the trial date to allow the memory of the prejudicial broadcast to fade, and require the Plaintiff to reimburse the Court and Defendants for all costs incurred for rescheduling the trial that cannot be mitigated,” Rolling Stone’s attorneys said in court documents.

The defendants also filed objections to the use of text messages as exhibits in the trial, citing the lack of specificity in which exact text messages Eramo and her attorneys plan to bring up.

“Plaintiff has declined to identify to Defendants which specific text messages from this file she intends to introduce at trial, or to designate trial exhibits consisting of specific ranges of text messages,” the defendants said in court documents.

The court will hold a conference call on Friday, Oct. 14, to address any remaining matters at hand before the trial scheduled for Monday, Oct. 17.

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