While the prosecution of the indictment for rape against Dominique Strauss-Kahn looks flimsier after revelations about the alleged victim in the case, another high-profile rape case appears in danger of foundering on the credibility of the accuser. Four years ago, Jamie Leigh Jones made headlines and became a cause celebre on the Left after accusing KBR employees of gang-raping her and the company of imprisoning her when she attempted to report the crime. The lurid accusations and Jones’ singular drive to seek justice, combined with the controversial American military action in Iraq and questions about the control the US had over its contractors there, made Jones into a celebrity, and she plays a starring role in a new documentary about the struggle to access the justice system in America.
The story fell out of the headlines a few years back, but Jones now finds herself in the trial she sought in a civil suit against KBR. But as Mother Jones reports, Jones may well lose her case, thanks to a raft of evidence that rebuts most of her accusations and statements in the last four years:
Jones’ trial, which started on June 13, is highlighting significant holes and discrepancies in her story. Not only has the federal trial judge already thrown out large portions of her case, evidence introduced in the trial raises the question of whether Jones has exaggerated and embellished key aspects of her story.
None of this means that Jones was not raped in Iraq. But the evidence does undermine her credibility and could create serious doubts in jurors’ minds.
Mother Jones is hardly an unsympathetic outlet for the case, so the detailed report from Stephanie Mencimer is all the more remarkable, and particularly well-written. Mencimer had previously thought that KBR’s court filings accusing Jones of fabricating key components of the case was a sign that “KBR was headed to the gutter” to discredit her. The court filings that Mencimer has read now indicate that KBR wasn’t trying to bluff Jones into a settlement, but had good reason to make those accusations. She compiles quite a list of Jones’ statements that evidence now contradicts, including key components of the case:
- Jones accused an unknown KBR employee of spiking her drink with a date-rape drug. No such drug was found in her system, but testimony indicates that Jones drank more than she admitted and may have been drunk enough for amnesia.
- The original accusation was that of gang rape, but the evidence strongly suggests that sexual contact took place with just one man — who insists that the contact was consensual.
- She claimed that KBR locked her in a container and surrounded it with armed guards. Not only does KBR not have armed guards, the imprisonment accusation didn’t arise until two years after she first filed a sexual-harassment complaint over the incident with the EEOC.
- Jones also insisted that she never had any history of mental problems, but her medical records indicate that she had been prescribed medication for bipolar condition, an anti-depressant, and an anti-anxiety drug before she started working at KBR.
- Her medical records also “suggest” that Jones has made other accusations of rape and/or sexual assault, once at KBR and one time before her employment, separate from these allegations. The alleged incident at KBR predated her transfer to Iraq by a few months.
Finally, one of the claims that Jones makes in her civil suit is that her treatment by KBR has left her an agoraphobic, unable to leave her house or pursue a career. Mencimer reports on the evidence that disputes that claim:
Jones has maintained that the attack in Iraq has rendered her agoraphobic, afraid to leave the house alone, unable to work, and unable to sleep. She has filed disability claims to this effect. As a result of these claims and her lawsuit, Jones has undergone extensive psychological evaluations. That paper trail contains several land mines.
Some of the conflicts are fairly obvious. At the same time Jones was telling therapists and psychiatrists that she was virtually disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder and could not work, leave the house, drive, or have meaningful relationships with men, she has completed three college degrees, including an MBA; gotten married; had two babies; worked as a teacher and now as a part-time college professor; testified repeatedly before Congress; gone on TV; appeared in a documentary; and started a foundation to support women working as contractors overseas. It’s not the résumé of someone as paralyzed by trauma as Jones has claimed to various therapists and psychologists.
And that’s not all. Mencimer also reports that Jones and her attorney had been shopping a book and/or screenplay based on her story. A producer of documentaries, Paul Pompian, bought the rights and is trying to make a film and have a book written to support it. When KBR found out, they demanded access to the manuscript and its supporting documents, which Jones’ attorney attempted to block by declaring the project “a work of fiction.”
As Mencimer says, that doesn’t mean Jones didn’t get raped in Iraq. The circumstances of the acknowledged single sexual encounter are murky, and one can also consider whether a woman so drunk as to incur amnesia can truly give effective consent to sex as an issue. Since this is a civil case and not a criminal prosecution, there is a lower standard of proof than in the DSK case in New York City. In both instances, though, the alleged victim appears to have misrepresented the facts of the case — and since both cases come down to the credibility of the victim, it’s likely that neither will get the outcome they sought.