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 legal team representing U-Va. assistant dean Nicole Eramo filed the new evidence Monday in federal court in a case involving the magazine’s retracted portrayal of the incident and the university’s handling of sexual assaults on the Charlottesville campus. The magazine published the 9,000 word account in 2014, and it centered on claims by a U-Va. student, named Jackie, that she’d been gang-raped as a freshman in a fraternity house in September 2012.
In the filing, Eramo’s lawyers submitted new data from Yahoo concerning an e-mail account linked to “Haven Monahan,” the man Jackie identified to friends as the perpetrator of her assault. An investigation by the Charlottesville Police revealed that no person by that name has ever been a student at U-Va., and Eramo’s lawyers have presented evidence in court documents indicating that he is a figment of Jackie’s imagination.
Ryan Duffin, a student who knew Jackie at U-Va., told The Washington Post that he believed that the character was created by Jackie in an effort to attract Duffin’s romantic interest, a tactic known as “catfishing.”
Duffin said that Jackie told him and other friends that Monahan was a junior she met through a chemistry class. Duffin said that he exchanged messages with “Haven,” who spent much of his time talking about how Jackie had a crush on a fellow freshman named Ryan. In late September of their freshman year, Jackie claimed that “Haven” assaulted her after a dinner date.
Also, photographs that were texted to one of Jackie’s friends showing the alleged attacker were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a student at a university in another state, confirmed to The Post that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hadn’t been to Charlottesville for many years.
The data from Yahoo that Eramo’s lawyers acquired via subpoena shows that the e-mail account “Haven.email@example.com” 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.
After filing the lawsuit, Eramo’s lawyers asked Jackie and her legal team to hand over all documents in their possession related to “Haven.” In multiple responses, Jackie’s lawyers wrote that they had already given Eramo’s legal team everything they had.
“We have taken the necessary and appropriate steps to collect, maintain and produce documents consistent with our discovery obligations,” wrote Rebecca Anzidei, one of Jackie’s lawyers from the Stein Mitchell Muse Cipollone & Beato law firm. “To be clear, Respondent is not withholding any responsive documents relating to the category identified in your letter.”
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 Haven.Monahan@yahoo.com 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.”
Jackie’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.
In the new court filing, Eramo’s lawyers write that the data from Yahoo leads to “only one logical conclusion: Jackie is ‘Haven Monahan.'”
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.
Eramo’s lawyers claim that Jackie is “a serial liar who invented” her account of being raped by seven fraternity brothers participating in a hazing ritual that had left her bloodied and emotionally scarred.
“Jackie was the primary source for Rolling Stone’s false and defamatory article that included her story about being the victim of a violent sexual assault,” Libby Locke, one of Eramo’s attorneys, told The Post earlier this year. “But there is no evidence whatsoever that the story that Jackie told her friends, or the very different story she told Rolling Stone, actually transpired. Instead, it appears that Jackie fabricated her perpetrator and the details of the alleged assault.”
Eramo filed her lawsuit a year ago, seeking more than $7.5 million in damages for what her lawyers describe as the magazine’s false portrayal of the associate dean as callous and indifferent to Jackie’s sexual assault allegations. Eramo’s lawyers have requested communications between Jackie and Rolling Stone, as well as the student’s correspondence with U-Va. staff.
After apologizing for inconsistencies in the account, Rolling Stone officially retracted the article in April 2015. Rolling Stone has declined to comment on the case.