Federal Judge Throws Out Leaked Deposition Tapes in Eramo Lawsuit
A federal judge in Roanoke heard arguments Tuesday from lawyers involved in a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit over a retracted Rolling Stone Magazine article.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A federal judge in Roanoke is not going to allow lawyers to use video-taped depositions in next week’s defamation lawsuit over a retracted Rolling Stone Magazine article.
Attorneys for the magazine are claiming former University of Virginia Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo leaked a video-taped deposition to a media outlet, which is set to be broadcasted Friday, just days before the trial is scheduled to start.
Rolling Stone Magazine published "A Rape on Campus" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely in its November 2014 issue. In the article, a student referred to as "Jackie" described being gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at UVA in September of 2012. The magazine has redacted and apologized for the article.
Eramo is suing the magazine, its publisher, and Erdely because she claims the article cast her as the chief villain. She is seeking $7.5 million in damages.
Tuesday, October 11, the judge ruled that Eramo's legal team will not be able to introduce any video-taped depositions that were given to ABC’s 20/20 program.
A promotional video for 20/20 shows Erdely wiping away tear during a taped deposition. The author has been subpoenaed to testify during the upcoming trial in Charlottesville.
"In a criminal case, which gets a lot more publicity, there's an actual ethical rule that prohibits the prosecutor from leaking things and seeing that kind of publicity. It doesn't apply in a civil case, but as a rule of thumb, the judge couldn't have been pleased that in advance of a trial they were leaking these depositions," said legal expert David Heilberg.
The same ruling could go for any other depositions that are broadcasted during the 20/20 program.
"What he's actually done, I think as a practical matter, has given the defense the same right they would have in a criminal case and that's to confront your accuser," Heilberg said.
Heilberg says not having a video-taped deposition tape to play in court can becomes an issue if the person on the stand changes their story.
"In case the story changes in some way and you can challenge the witness, ‘no, that's not what you said at the deposition,’" the legal expert explained.
Eramo’s legal team released a statement Monday, saying in part, "These depositions were filed publicly with the court for anyone to see. This is little more than a tactic by Rolling Stone to delay the trial."
Rolling Stone Magazine released the following statement:
We agree with the court's sanctions against plaintiff's attorneys as their actions were a serious violation of the protective order in this case. The evidence clearly shows that Rolling Stone did not set out to defame Eramo. We now look forward to the jury's decision.
The 10-day jury trial is scheduled to start Monday, October 17.