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tv   2020  ABC  October 14, 2016 10:01pm-11:00pm EDT

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what do we want? >> tonight, on "20/20," the scandal that put a glaring new spotlight on college sexual assault. >> the scandal rocking the university of virginia. >> that elite college, university of virginia, an alleged frathouse attack on a student only known as jackie. she doesn't tell police, but only tells "rolling stone." now, the dean who says she was unfairly villainized. >> they made it look like i used
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the trust of young women to cover up rape. >> but what is the truth? >> a series of discrepancies. >> was it all a devious plot by jackie, making up the attack to snare the real boy who rejected her? >> you believe she stole your story. >> and next week, it's "rolling stone" on the stand, in a blockbuster libel trial. now, the key players, and deposition tapes never seen in public. a reporter whose article had to be retracted. >> i had full faith in jackie. >> 9,000 keystrokes, we were done. >> what happened to jackie? here's amy robach.
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>> reporter: welcome weekend at the university of virginia. when 20,000 students descend on the small, idyllic southern city of charlottesville. the campus grounds suddenly alive with wide-eyed first years and their families, steadying themselves for that first collegiate instagram post and long hug good-bye. >> why did you choose to go to uva? >> it's a school that's known for having a really wide range of effective academic programs. and the campus is really nice, to boot. >> reporter: founded by thomas jefferson, uva boasts no shortage of accomplished alumni including journalist katie couric, comedienne tina fey, and the late robert f. kennedy. but it has another claim to fame you won't see on display in the rotunda. >> the very beginning of our first year, we won the -- "playboy," like, top party school in america award.
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>> there is a work hard, play hard culture at uva that's -- that's pretty pervasive. >> reporter: the year of that "playboy" honor was 2012, where our story begins. and the main character? a young woman, a freshman -- we're calling jackie. by all accounts her initial weeks are typical. getting to know the grounds and her classes, and hanging out in the dorms, where she meets three other first-year students, ryan duffin, kathryn hendley, and alex stock. do you remember coming to uva your freshman year, what it was like? >> i was pretty much just looking for friends at the beginning. and i met kathryn and i met ryan, and then through them i met jackie. and we kind of formed something of a friend group in the first couple weeks. >> reporter: when did you first meet jackie? >> i first met jackie on my second day at uva. a good person to spend time with. we were hanging out a lot in the first few weeks of school, probably every other night at least. >> reporter: just as quickly as the friendships formed, they say it appeared that jackie's feelings towards ryan extended to something more. did jackie tell you that she had feelings for your friend, ryan? >> yeah.
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oh, yeah. pretty quickly it became clear that she liked him. >> reporter: but you weren't interested in her romantically. >> no. i didn't want to date her. but it became clear very quickly that she had developed an interest in me. we did go on one date, because i figured, "if you're willing to ask, you should get a chance." but after that date i told her, you know, "sorry, i'd rather just keep this as friends." >> reporter: you said that to >> mm-hmm. >> reporter: and how did she respond? >> she started crying. did not go over well at all. >> i guess that really shook her up. when ryan wasn't interested in her, she would be, you know, crying her eyes out with me and kathryn. >> reporter: what would she say when she was crying? >> i think she was just mostly, "why doesn't he like me?" >> reporter: and she was devastated? >> yeah, i would say she was pretty upset. more upset than i think the average person would be on a crush that's lasted a week or two. >> reporter: but, soon enough, they say jackie has a new man in her life. an upperclassman, who happens to
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be a member of one of the school's most prominent fraternities, phi kappa psi. >> she said that there was somebody in her chemistry class who wanted to go on a date with her. >> reporter: did she give that person a name? >> yes. she said his name was haven monahan. >> reporter: remember that name. haven monahan, a name as peculiar as it will become paramount. >> this new guy comes on the scene who's suddenly interested in jackie. and jackie's -- loves to tell us all about it, i guess loves to tell ryan all about it. >> reporter: and according to her friends, jackie had a way with words. >> she was a great storyteller. she always told stories with a lot of detail and a lot of specifics that made you feel like you were -- almost like you were there. >> reporter: and on september 28th, 2012, jackie tells her friends a story that will change all of their lives, and countless others. take us back to that night. >> i got a phone call from her where she said, "hey, something happened. please come meet me." >> reporter: you immediately go? >> yeah.
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>> reporter: what did you see? >> she was sitting on a picnic table near some of the first-year dorms. she was crying. she's -- you know, was obviously really upset about something. >> reporter: what did jackie say happened? you were waiting for her to talk. and she talked. >> yes. >> reporter: ryan claims jackie tells him she had a date that night with haven, one that would end catastrophically. >> haven parked his car out in front of his fraternity house and said he had to run inside to grab something. he asked jackie if she wanted to come along. she said, "yes." she said that once they got up to his bedroom there were five other men waiting in the bedroom and haven forced jackie to perform oral sex on those five men. >> reporter: what was your response? >> the first thing i wanted to do was go to the police about it. jackie didn't want to. >> reporter: why? >> 'cause she didn't want to have to sit down in a police station and continually go over it, detail by detail. so i called alex and katherine. >> ryan's right in front of that dorm with jackie. and he's giving me a call and said, "something terrible has happened to jackie and you need
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to get here right away." and we get to the dorm and i go talk to ryan and figure out what's going on and he tells me that jackie's been raped. and jackie wasn't really talking much, but just kind of sitting there, like, affirming what ryan tells me. >> reporter: did you tell her to call police? >> that was kind of what ryan and i were both telling her. and, you know, obviously right after the -- the attack, she wasn't in any condition to go anywhere. she just wanted to go to bed. >> alex and i spent the night sleeping on sleeping bags in her dorm room to make sure that she was okay. >> reporter: in the subsequent days, jackie's friends say they continued to check in on her. did the two of you get closer during this time? did she lean on you more? >> no. so, we actually stopped hanging out a few weeks afterwards. >> reporter: why? >> it wasn't because of the assault. it was because -- yet again, she still would ask me why i was not willing to date her. and, you know, for lack of a better answer than, "i don't want to," i realized it would be better to cut off the friendship.
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>> reporter: it seemed like you came to the realization she couldn't accept just a friendship. >> yes. >> reporter: jackie chooses not to report the assault to the police and drifts away from her three friends. then, almost two years later, a reporter from "rolling stone" walks onto the campus and puts jackie's story, her former friends, and the university of virginia in the nation's crosshairs. >> an allegation of a brutal gang rape at a uva frat house caused outrage in charlottesville and nationwide. >> reporter: coming up -- jackie's story goes national. >> a student told "rolling stone" magazine that she was gang raped at a party. >> reporter: a campus and a country taking the story as gospel. >> the article was not to be questioned. it was the word of god when it came out. >> but would those words continue to hold up? i'm david muir. >> and i'm elizabeth vargas. in a week when alleged sexual
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assaults have been front and center, that continues to be fresh on college campuses. >> it's been dubbed the red zone zone, and we're live tweeting on tonight's program. join our conversation on facebook and twitter. when we come back, the explosive twist that is about to occur. or fill a big order or expand your office and take on whatever comes next. find out how american express cards and services can help prepare you for growth at open.com. take one of those pillows exprthey smell really fresh. what if we told you we washed these sheets 7 days ago. really no way downy? downy fabric conditioner. give us a week, and we'll change your bed forever.
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>> reporter: two years have passed since the alleged attack on a first-year student in this stately fraternity house on uva's greek row. it's november, 2014, and just days before students head out for thanksgiving they're blindsided by an incendiary, 9,000-word expose in "rolling stone" titled "a rape on campus." >> i remember that morning, i woke up and i remember reading on social media, there's this article that's come out, bombshell article. you have to read it. >> a "rolling stone" article. >> now to that scandal rocking the university of virginia. >> reporter: the timing couldn't be worse. the school, seemingly cursed. reeling from the high-profile murders of student-athlete yeardley love. >> the university of virginia student murdered by her former boyfriend. >> reporter: and that same fall, the disappearance and murder of coed hannah graham. >> searchers in virginia stumbled across what they now believe are graham's remains. >> it was not the usual kind of
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atmosphere on campus, there was something, you know, amiss. >> reporter: now, the explosive "rolling stone" story. but this account sounds even worse. more lurid and dramatic than the version her friends recall hearing. jackie's date takes her to a raucous frat party at phi kappa psi. she takes his hand as he ushers her into a bedroom. the door closes behind them. the room, pitch-black inside. a body barrels into her. tripping her backward, crashing through a low glass table. she hears someone say "grab its expletive leg" and that's when jackie knows she is going to be raped. three hours of sheer agony, as she says seven men took turns raping her. jackie runs shoeless out of the frat house. face beaten, her red dress spattered with blood. she runs into the arms of three friends. but instead of going to the police, there's a heated debate,
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one friend warning, "she's going to be the girl who cried 'rape,' and we'll never be allowed into any frat party again." while the article contains rich detail about the night in question, the reporter says jackie declined to identify her attackers by name. the "rolling stone" reporter, sabrina rubin eardley, becomes a rock star in her own right. a seasoned journalist with numerous sexual assault stories to her portfolio. >> i met a young woman named jackie. >> reporter: she becomes a sought-after talk show guest, hammering the uva administration for what she says was indifference to jackie's claims. >> she went to the administration and told them that she had been gang raped, and the administration did nothing about it. >> reporter: in fact, in the article, jackie claims she told the administration about two other rape allegations at that same fraternity, but says no action was taken. >> not only was there no investigation, but
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the campus administration apparently decided there was no reason to warn the rest of the campus that there had been multiple allegations of gang rape against a fraternity that continued to hold parties every weekend. >> reporter: and another lightning strike in the article, jackie once asked associate dean of students nicole eramo why uva's rape stats were hard to find. she says the dean answered, "because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school." >> it was my sense that the university of virginia was just stonewalling and not allowing jackie to get help. >> reporter: if jackie sounded credible to anyone, it was this woman. >> my attack happened five weeks into my college career. i was 17. >> reporter: liz seccuro was another young freshman when she says she was gang raped at the same phi kappa psi house at uva in 1984. >> i just remember this young man. you know, i was clearly impaired. locked me in a room and cut the lights. >> reporter: you were screaming. >> i was screaming.
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and i thought, "i'm going to die here." >> reporter: but seccuro survived and ultimately turned in her attacker. >> william bebe pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual battery. >> reporter: making her a hero to sex assault survivors. you wrote a memoir about your experience. how well known is the liz seccuro story on campus? >> my book is in the library. it's in the women's center. there was a book tour. it was national. so it's very well known. >> reporter: so liz seccuro was only too willing to participate in that "rolling stone" article, concerned that history was possibly repeating itself. you were obviously struck by the similarities of jackie's story to your story. how so? what specifically? >> well, the house, first of all. and i think sabrina probably thought, "oh, my god, is this some sort of sick tradition?" >> reporter: know who else was wondering? the federal government. one of the reasons "rolling stone" was interested in uva is because at that time it was one of 85 schools under investigation for allegedly
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mishandling sexual assault complaints. >> uva was not providing prompt or equitable responses to sexual assault victims who chose to report. >> reporter: when the article comes, there is a torrent of reaction. shock, not just at jackie's horrific attack, but also at the way the university handled her case. dean eramo, the public face of the scandal, becomes public enemy number one. as protesters replace partygoers on uva's greek row. phi kappa psi house is defaced. a brick thrown through its window. "uva center for rape studies" spraypainted across its exterior. #istandwithjackie hashtags trend nationwide. uva president teresa sullivan holds a press conference. >> we have a problem and we will get after it. >> reporter: suspending greek life and calling for charlottesville police to
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investigate the heinous crime. >> it was something i had to struggle with, "did we know this? did anyone tell us this? is this the first we're finding out by reading a magazine? really?" >> reporter: coming up, "really?" becomes a real question when a new reporter starts digging. you weren't setting out to disprove this story. >> absolutely not. i was setting out to get to the bottom of the story. i told everybody that i met that i just want to find out the truth. >> reporter: turns out, the truth would become a moving target. but not before the dean becomes a pariah, fearful she may be the next target of violence. >> dear nicole eramo, the dean of rape. i hope you don't have a daughter. >> reporter: our interview with the woman in the eye of the storm, next. whenpneumococcal pneumonia, it was huge for everybody. she just started to decline rapidly. i was rushed to the hospital. my symptoms were devastating. the doctor said, "pam!
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["diggy" by ♪ ncer ludwig] but she always told me i don't care what happens.. i don't care if you turn out to be a great athlete or whatever but, you need to make sure you get your college degree. sometimes i call the house just to hear her voice. (phone ringing) answering machine: hi you've reached the fitzgerald, leave a message after the beep. (beep) hey mom this is larry. i just want to let you know that uh, i fulfilled the promise that you held me to. i wouldn't be able to do it without your love and support. and all the values you taught me and marcus growing up. they're still things that i hold near and dear to my heart and i'm going to teach it to my boys as well.
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♪ >> reporter: for 49 years, it's been considered the encyclopedia of rock. but now, the "rolling stone" article about an alleged rape is rocking the very foundation of an elite university. the most read non-celebrity story in its history. >> the university founded by thomas jefferson now finds itself in total crisis. >> the state's attorney general is appointing a special investigator. >> there is something seriously wrong with the university officials in charge of these students. >> reporter: and the public face of that scandal? associate dean of students, nicole eramo, who shared with us just tame selection of the onslaught of hate mail she received in its wake.
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>> "dear nicole eramo, the dean of rape, i really hope that an enterprising u.s. attorney finds a way to throw you in prison. god will have his day with you and hold you accountable. you are a despicable human being." >> reporter: eramo, breaking her silence for the first time since the article was published. >> i just thought, "what am i going to do?" and that's hard. it was very hard. >> reporter: hardest, perhaps, because according to eramo, she is not only an employee who loved her students. >> this is my university of virginia ring. >> reporter: she's also a proud uva alum. >> i'm proud of it. i have three degrees from uva. >> reporter: as the associate dean of students, you are also the chair of uva's misconduct board. >> the sexual misconduct board. yes. >> reporter: so front line dealing with those who claim to have been sexually assault on campus, correct? >> yes.
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>> reporter: one of them was jackie. jackie came to her about a year after her alleged assault. yet, when eramo read the account in "rolling stone," she says it was practically unrecognizable. >> my heart sunk. it was very different from what i knew of the story. so i was very confused at first, "why wouldn't she tell me?" you know, "why would she provide all this information and not provide it to me and let me help her?" so that was kind of my first reaction. >> reporter: eramo says jackie's account in the magazine was far more specific, far more violent, and the portrayal of her support of jackie, very misleading. >> it portrayed her as a callous, indifferent administrator who became a false friend of jackie in order to coddle her into not reporting her sexual assault beyond the bounds of dean eramo's office. >> reporter: the "rolling stone" reporter requested an interview with eramo, but the school wouldn't allow her to
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participate. nevertheless, she's mentioned by name 31 times, and the article includes this photo illustration of her, and as you'll find out, it will become a major point of contention in the story. how would you describe how "rolling stone" portrayed you? >> they made it look like i used the trust of young women to cover up rapes. and that was so far from anything i would ever do. it was just unbelievable to me. >> reporter: quote, "because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school." did you say that? >> no. >> reporter: did she make that up? >> i can't say. but i know i didn't say it. >> reporter: would you have ever said anything like that to an alleged victim of sexual assault at the university of virginia? >> no. >> reporter: eramo says despite her issues with the accuracy of the article, her hands were tied due to privacy laws. >> i can't speak to the specifics of my interactions with students. >> reporter: you couldn't defend yourself? >> no.
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there was nothing i could do to speak to what i knew wasn't accurate. and that was really difficult. >> reporter: you were scared? >> yeah. i thought, i was sure i was going to be fired. i was sure that -- and i just didn't know if i could do it. honestly. and i went to work every day and i tried to do it, but i wasn't sure i could do it. >> reporter: but while the fires of fury burn on campus at uva, another reporter is about to stoke the flames from about 120 miles east at "the washington post." meet t. rees shapiro. shapiro works the "post"'s education beat. >> i had been in charlottesville for the better part of six weeks covering the hannah graham disappearance. and a lot of the feeling that i got at the time was, how come we are totally blindsided by this report out of "rolling stone," a national outlet that has no connection with charlottesville whatsoever? >> reporter: you thought you had missed something.
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>> and i had. i had missed something. it was one of the biggest stories to ever hit a college campus ever. >> reporter: soon enough, shapiro is out of the newsroom and back in charlottesville talking to students. you weren't setting out to disprove this story. >> absolutely not. i was setting out to get to the bottom of the story. >> reporter: shapiro goes right to the source, jackie herself. and over a coffee, he says she doubles down on the story she told to "rolling stone." tell me about your impressions of jackie when you sat down with her. >> extremely intelligent. composed. sort of gently mannered. she came up to me and introduced herself. and said, "oh, hey, i'm jackie." and she wasn't afraid to be in public either. at that point, everybody it seemed in the nation knew of her story. and she didn't shy away from me. she didn't also shy away from any question that i asked. >> reporter: was she detailed? >> very detailed, absolutely. i went to my editor and i said, "well, you know, i've spoken with her. and i feel like we have a really good interview here."
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and he said, "well, now it's our turn to get to the truth of the matter, too. and that we need to find the people who allegedly assaulted her." >> reporter: on campus, shapiro can't find those anonymous alleged attackers, but who he does find brings the kind of breakthrough seasoned reporters bank on. >> the three friends that jackie had met in the immediate aftermath of that, they weren't hiding. they were happy to speak with me. >> reporter: in fact, those three friends might have been happy to talk to "rolling stone" too, but they didn't. why? jackie answered for them, telling the magazine they declined. >> sabrina asked jackie to reach out to me. jackie told sabrina that i had said no. >> reporter: coming up, when jackie's friends say yes to interviews, her story starts to crumble, and a different one emerges. >> i think she had a crush on a boy and was trying to get his attention. i think it's as simple as that. >> reporter: and later, remember
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how do we measure greatness in how america? you? the height of our skyscrapers? the size of our bank accounts? no. it's measured by what we do for our children. the values we pass on. i've spent my life fighting for kids and families and it will be my mission to build a country where our children can rise as high as their dreams and hard work take them. that means good schools for every child in every zip code. college that leads to opportunities... not debt. and an economy where every young american can find a job that lets them start a family of their own. we face big challenges, but we can solve them the same way
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families do. working together. respecting one another. and never giving up. i want our success to be measured by theirs. i'm hillary clinton and i approve this message. >> reporter: after hours in charlottesville. frat life back in full swing.
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but back on campus, two stories have emerged in the alleged rape of a college coed -- the one on the record in "rolling stone," and the one that's just starting to circulate, that it's maybe all a lie. >> discrepancies. >> discrepancies. >> reporter: the fraternity says no party happened the night in question. reporter sabrina rubin erdely gets on the phone with jackie, asking her again to give her the name of the ringleader of her attack. jackie gives her one, but wavers on the spelling. it's a red flag for erdely. after she can't find anyone matching that name and another unsettling call with jackie, she fires off this ominous e-mail to her editors. the subject line? "our worst nightmare." jackie isn't credible. we have to issue a retraction. within hours, they post an editor's note online acknowledging "mistakes in the reporting process." for first time on this story, the vaunted magazine is
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backtracking. they turn to the columbia journalism school to conduct an independent review. but that other reporter, "the washington post"'s t. rees shapiro, had already begun his own reporting -- starting with jackie's three friends, now under the micrcroscope. their version of her story was very different than the one that appeared in "rolling stone." >> totally different. >> reporter: those friends? two of them, you met earlier. alex and ryan. named andy and randall in the article, they say they were portrayed as cold-hearted when jackie came to them in crisis. >> there were all these horrible quotes attributed to me about, you know -- "quit being a baby," and, "we want to get into a fraternity, so stop whining." and i was thinking, "i didn't say any of that." >> that conversation never happened. we wanted her to go to authorities. >> reporter: sabrina did reach out to you after the article was published. >> yes. sabrina called me with one question.
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she wanted to know if jackie had ever actually asked me to be a part of the initial reporting. she had not. >> reporter: if you had spoken with "rolling stone" before the story was published, what would you have told them? >> i would've told them the story as i was told it by jackie, a version of the story inconsistent with what was published in the article. >> reporter: one of those inconsistencies? in the version they heard, there were five alleged attackers, not seven. and the ringleader of the assault had a name, haven monahan. she named her attacker as haven monahan. >> yes. >> reporter: haven monahan. remember, he was supposedly jackie's date the night in question. ryan says jackie told him she was nervous about dating an upperclassman, so she asked ryan to vet him. you had been texting him to find out his character on jackie's behalf. but in those texts -- obtained by "20/20" -- haven seems frustrated, because jackie is clearly smitten with someone else. "get this. she likes some other first-year guy.
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she said, 'this kid is smart and funny and worth it.'" >> so haven started speaking pretty quickly about how jackie was interested in some other guy she knew. >> reporter: they were describing you. >> yes. >> reporter: and you knew that immediately? >> it was pretty clear. >> reporter: ryan and haven never actually met in person, so after the alleged attack, he wants to confront him. >> i ran a search on uva's student directory to try to find haven monahan. no results. from what i could turn up, there was no student at uva named haven monahan. >> reporter: guess who else figured that out? the charlottesville police, who now say jackie isn't cooperating with its investigation. >> so that was an obstacle for us. >> reporter: leading police chief tim longo to make this blockbuster announcement. >> i don't believe what was depicted in that article took place. did something happen? i don't know. >> reporter: so what about that
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"rolling stone" article? in april, 2015, the columbia journalism review weighs in and determines the story was, quote, "a journalistic failure that was avoidable." five months after publication, "rolling stone" takes down its story. seeking to clear her name and restore her reputation, dean nicole eramo files a $7.85 million lawsuit against "rolling stone," and that reporter, sabrina rubin earley. defamation lawyers tom clare and libby locke took the case. what do you hope to gain with this lawsuit? >> first and foremost, we want the record set straight. >> reporter: as they begin to look carefully at the case, specifically those text messages, they conclude what might be the most incredible twist yet in this sad saga -- haven was jackie all along. was there an "aha moment" when you realized that this was a
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huge catfishing scheme? >> i think receiving those text messages from ryan and reading them back and forth, and seeing that there's just no way that this wasn't jackie. >> reporter: haven monahan was, in fact, jackie. >> yes. jackie was haven monahan. >> reporter: better put. clare and locke say they determined that jackie had created false phone numbers for haven to make ryan jealous. and when that didn't work, she upped the ante -- creating a fake story about an assault. she's pulling out all the stops. she's doing anything she can to get you to talk to her. >> uh-huh. >> to care about her, to fall in love with her. >> and the measures become more and more desperate as time goes on. >> reporter: so desperate, ryan says, at one point jackie even told him she's suffering from a terminal illness. >> she said there was a copy of her will on file at student health. >> reporter: jackie told you she was dying. >> yes. >> reporter: all concocted, clare and locke believe, to win ryan's heart.
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such an intricate and complicated story. >> all woven by one person. >> reporter: coming up -- the "rolling stone" reporter is before the cameras again. this time, under oath. and you'll never believe where jackie may have gotten inspiration for her story. i overpack... but my guy knows what to bring... like viagra single packs for ed. ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex. do not take viagra if you take nitrates for chest pain or adempas® for pulmonary hypertension.
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"20/20" continues with more of what happened to jackie? >> reporter: they're the most recognizable two notes in all of crime drama, but dean eramo's defamation lawyers say this scene should ring familiar too. >> the rape victim in that "svu" episode, as she's being attacked, the perpetrators say -- >> grab her legs. come on, grab her legs. >> reporter: and that's the same thing that jackie alleges that she heard one of her attackers say. libby locke and tom clare say jackie perpetrated an elaborate hoax. her story, really a series of composites plucked from pop culture.
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look at this -- a love letter written about ryan. >> ryan's great, actually. i mean he's smart. he's attractive. he's funny. he's a scaredy cat. if you creep up behind him, he'll jump right out of his skin. >> reporter: they say jackie lifted it from "dawson's creek." >> she's great. i mean, she's smart, she's beautiful, she's funny, she's a big old scaredy cat. if you creep up from behind her she'll jump out of her skin. >> she seems to have drawn significant components of her story from pop culture. >> reporter: but remember liz seccuro? the survivor of a sexual assault in 1984? she thinks jackie drew inspiration from at least one non-fiction story -- hers. you believe she stole your story. >> yeah. absolutely, 100%. >> reporter: now, in just a few days, nicole eramo will go toe-to-toe with a media titan -- "rolling stone."
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>> i think that the evidence is clear, "rolling stone" acted with disregard for the truth. >> reporter: eramo will need to prove "rolling stone" published its article with reckless disregard for the truth. her lawyers pointing out that the editors' own fact-checkers raised issues before the story went to print. and what do they hold up as the proverbial exhibit "a"? that image of the dean that appeared in the article. so this is the original photo of you. and then this is the picture that appeared in "rolling stone"? >> yes. >> reporter: what do you see when you see this picture? >> my husband and i call it the devil picture 'cause i look evil. it looks like i'm completely indifferent to this young woman crying in my office, which is a complete mischaracterization of the type of person that i am. >> reporter: "rolling stone" called it a photo illustration. but it turns out, even their own fact-checker flagged it, asking, "too mean?" >> we don't have to look any further than what the fact-checker at "rolling stone" first thought when she saw that illustration. "is this too mean?"
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and that was her initial reaction. >> reporter: "20/20" requested an interview with sabrina rubin erdley. she declined. but we have her on tape nevertheless. in this never before seen deposition tape, we're hearing from eardly for the first time -- being questioned, just this past spring, under oath by eramo's lawyers. >> ms. erdely, do you believe that jackie was actually gang raped, knowing what you know now? >> i have no way of knowing. >> do you have any belief, whatsoever, as to whether she was or was not gang raped? >> i couldn't possibly speculate. it never occurred to me that jackie was fabricating the story. >> jackie told you that she was raped by seven men. is that correct? >> yes. >> did that cause any red flags in your mind? >> no. i knew, prior to publication, that jackie had originally -- when she originally talked about her assault, she talked about it as being an oral assault by five different men, but she had told
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her -- that's something she told her roommate, rachel. but rachel told me, as jackie became more comfortable with the details of her assault, she came forward with the truth, which was that it actually had been seven men and it was vaginal assault. she proved to be credible in so many different ways. she was able to furnish me with a lot of different pieces of evidence to back up what she was saying. >> reporter: and here is erdley's response to why she didn't speak with ryan duffin before the article came out. >> what steps did you take to verify that mr. duffin actually wasn't willing to speak with you, other than having jackie tell you so? >> jackie, at that point, was a -- i took her as a very credible source. and i took her at her word that he did not want to speak. >> reporter: but the decision to trust jackie in the first place is evidently a painful one. >> why do these questions upset you?
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>> because, because it just -- it brings me back to the time, after i realized, you know, i had full faith in jackie and in her story. and discovering that, that she had misled me, or had omitted information, it was, it was, it was just devastating. >> reporter: while "rolling stone" admits they made mistakes, they defend their portrayal of the uva administration, pointing to the results of that federal investigation into how the university handled sexual assaults. the government concluding at times the school failed to "promptly and equitably" respond to complaints.
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in a statement given to abc news, "rolling stone" says in part, "the depiction of dean eramo in the article was balanced and described the challenges of her role. we now look forward to the jury's decision in this case." one of the main reasons "rolling stone" says it focused on uva to begin with was because there was already a federal investigation into how the university of virginia handled sexual assault cases on campus. do you think there was a problem? >> it's certainly an issue that we've struggled with, but it is one that we were desperately trying to get better at. >> reporter: "rolling stone" in fact argues that their portrayal of you is supported by the office of civil rights report that concluded that uva, including you, dean eramo, violated title ix and created a hostile environment for victims of sexual assault at uva. >> obviously i don't agree with that account. i think we were doing the best we could in a very difficult climate. >> reporter: could you have done better? >> i think everybody can improve. and i think we were trying to
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improve. >> reporter: but here's a fact mentioned in "rolling stone" that eramo can't dispute. during her tenure as associate dean, not a single student was ever expelled for sexual assault. can you understand how that may make some people think that uva did not take sexual assaults on campus seriously enough? >> i can certainly see how some people could make that leap, but i just know what i was trying to do every day. and we were taking it very seriously from my position. >> reporter: "20/20" did ask the university to participate in tonight's story, but it declined. in the wake of the scandal, nicole eramo is still employed at uva, but she's no longer the associate dean of students. >> i now work in the vice president for student affairs office for doing -- for more of an administrative role. so i don't work with students as often. >> reporter: i see you're emotional saying that.
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>> it's difficult. it's -- you know, it's not necessarily my passion. it's been a very difficult adjustment to be in a different role and not -- not have the privilege to be with students in that time of need. >> reporter: coming up -- two years and no word from jackie. until now. ♪ ♪ power, power to the lord ♪ power, power to the lord ♪ ♪ power! lord ♪
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mind that jackie had been sexually assaulted? >> i absolutely believed it. >> reporter: and continued to believe it. >> i don't think anything happened to her on september 28th. however, that does not mean that nothing happened to her before that would've prompted her to create a story like this. and i've resolved myself to realize that i never will know. >> reporter: ryan duffin's trust, just part of the collateral damage for those who feel they were caught in jackie's web. are you a more skeptical person now than you were before? >> absolutely. i think that's one of the takeaways from this story, right? people were so quick to shut down people who were actually being critical of the article, when those people ended up being right. >> i only have the one copy, which i thought would be sort of a commemorative copy of a piece that changed the way we all look at sexual violence and now it is a painful reminder. >> reporter: sexual assault survivor liz seccuro, now an advocate for victim's rights. >> there are a lot of people who want to turn this into, "women
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lie about rape all the time." now they just have a much bigger platform. >> reporter: because false reporting of sexual assault is extremely rare. >> it's extraordinarily rare. >> reporter: how big of a setback was this to your cause? >> here could have been a piece that changed the way americans look at the epidemic of campus sexual assault. because there is an epidemic of campus sexual assault. and in 9,000 keystrokes, we were done. weren't we? >> reporter: an alarming statistic buried in the fallout. almost 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college. >> "rolling stone" believed the story to be true at the time they published it. >> reporter: filed by former dean nicole eramo is scheduled to begin this monday. expected to testify, the
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reporter sabrina rubin erdely. and the woman we still known only as "jackie." what is jackie saying now? >> we're looking forward to having jackie on the stand and -- and hearing from her just like the rest of america. >> is there a villain in this story? >> i don't think so. i think everybody loses. >> the trial starts monday in virginia. and the fraternity is also suing rolling stone. >> and we'll be continuing to follow this case. we want to know what you think. what really happened to jackie in the end? let us know on facebook and twitter. >> and you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, we have resources on our website, abcnews.com. >> thanks for watching tonight. have a greet weekend. good night. oming up, on action friends gather to remember two teens killed along roosevelt
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boulevard and donald trump latches out at his latest accusers and that is next. for doctors who perform them. would you put people in jail for performing abortions? at some point doctors performing abortions i think would be subject to that sort of penalty. dscc is responsible for the content of this advertising. action news delaware valleys leading news program with jim gardner. ♪ it happened in a heartbeat the driver of an on hyundai

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