A Yahoo e-mail account opened by the woman at the center of a massive and ugly journalistic hoax might provide the last nail in the coffin for her claims of innocence. Lawyers representing a University of Virginia official suing both “Jackie” and Rolling Stone magazine for defamation have discovered the account, opened up the day before an e-mail from a mysterious “Haven Monahan” tried to convince another U-Va student of Jackie’s love for him. The attorneys for Nicole Eramo have filed a motion accusing “Jackie” and her lawyers of hiding this information — and they may have a smoking gun on that allegation, too, as the Washington Post’s T. Rees Shapiro reports:
New evidence shows that a University of Virginia student who alleged that she was gang raped at a campus fraternity created the fake persona of the alleged ringleader of the attack, according to lawyers representing a U-Va. official who is suing Rolling Stone magazine for defamation. …
The data from Yahoo that Eramo’s lawyers acquired via subpoena shows that the e-mail account [email protected] was created on Oct. 2, 2012 while connected to U-Va.’s computer network. The next day, Duffin received an e-mail from “Haven” passing on a letter Jackie had written to “Haven” about Duffin. In the letter, Jackie confesses her love for Duffin.
In a civil lawsuit, both sides are entitled to full discovery, and Eramo’s team specifically demanded any information Jackie possessed about “Haven.” Her attorneys insisted that they and Jackie have complied with the requirements of discovery. However, this information only recently came to Eramo’s legal team via the subpoena. The data trail on the account suggests that the law firm lied earlier to Eramo’s attorneys about the status of their discovery compliance:
In the most recent court filing, Eramo’s lawyers note, however, that the data from Yahoo shows that someone on the Stein Mitchell law firm’s network accessed the [email protected] e-mail address on March 18, 2016. Four days later, Eramo’s lawyers assert in court filings, Jackie’s lawyers sent another letter indicating “that Jackie was not in possession of these emails.” …
Data also shows that Jackie has not complied fully with a court order to hand over everything in her possession for evidence that could be used in the trial for the lawsuit, Eramo’s lawyer wrote. They have deposed her, under court order, regarding the Rolling Stone story, but parties to the lawsuit have been barred from discussing that deposition.
Worth noting: Jackie got deposed only after the alleged deception on discovery, as a judge ordered her to do so a couple of weeks after the law firm accessed the e-mail account. A court might find this alleged lack of discovery compliance troubling, especially considering the timing. If true, Jackie’s attorneys didn’t do their homework very well about the data trail that e-mail systems leave. Once they accessed it, they would have had no way to cover their knowledge of the system. Maybe they should take a couple of lessons in data forensics, eh? Or maybe they just got one.
That’s more of a sideshow, though. The new evidence makes it painfully clear that “Haven” not only never existed, but that Jackie deliberately created the persona for the purposes of fraud. (If it wasn’t Jackie who did so, then how did her attorneys access the account in the first place?) She catfished Duffin in an attempt to get his attention, and then everyone else in an attempt to get everyone’s attention with phony allegations of rape and official hostility toward victims, using “Haven Monahan” as the mastermind of the attack. And the saps at Rolling Stone turned out to be easy marks, until others (like Shapiro) did the investigative reporting that Rolling Stone and Sabrina Rubin Erdely pretended to do.
Small wonder Jackie isn’t fully complying with discovery. It will be interesting to see what else she’s hiding.