We all remember the tumult at the University of Virginia a couple years back. Oh, the earth spun a little slower, or faster -- metaphors fail me when it comes to stuff like this.
At any rate, you surely remember. A woman named Jackie Coakley, who was a student at UVa at the time, had an issue with a boy who was not paying her enough attention, or didn't see her as a romantic interest, or something like that. She decided to get the attention she wanted, by making up a completely baseless story about having been gang-raped at a fraternity house, Phi Kappa Psi.
She was then connected to the good folks at Rolling Stone magazine, which ignored all journalistic standards by publishing the account -- calling her just "Jackie" to protect her identity, mind you -- without doing a shred of research to validate any of the facts of the story. Had they done so, of course, they might have realized that some of the names in the account didn't exist, and that there was no party at all at the Phi Psi house on the night Miss Coakley claimed to have been assaulted -- at, she claimed, a party.
Rolling Stone ran the story anyway, to their journalistic and financial detriment. Teresa Sullivan, the president of UVa, promptly shut down all the fraternities and, bizarrely, the sororities as well (don't ask), in a "ready, fire, aim" response, without allowing even the Phi Psis the due process to point out all the inaccuracies that made the article suspect.
Ultimately, Rolling Stone got sued, paid out a big settlement to get out from under their own stupidity, and took a big black eye as far as journalistic competence. The collateral damage included a UVa dean, as well as the entire Greek system there and, well, no one thinks a lot of Teresa Sullivan anymore either. Rolling Stone was hardly innocent, but this whole episode cost them whatever reputation remained.
All of this, we might point out, happened only because a petulant, amoral female student wanted attention, and because the climate against sexual assault has risen to where the assumption is of guilt rather than innocence. We must, apparently, not give out the names of accusers even after they have been shown to be liars. And no one, from a university president on down, or on up, gets the notion that due process for the accused is actually a core principle of our justice system, to be applied before punishment is meted out.
So where is good old Jackie Coakley these days?
Well, she is married and is now "Jackie McGovern", living her life, la-la-la, scot-free despite being the central figure in a mammoth fraud that has cost people their jobs, institutions their reputations, and a magazine a spitload of money.
And nobody -- nobody -- appears willing to take her to task, either in a civil suit (Rolling Stone might want to think about that) or in a criminal case, given that she perpetrated a massive fraud with some pretty serious consequences and material damages.
I have no assumption to make as to whether she has not been sued because she is a shallow pocket, incapable of affording a large settlement in a civil suit. But I have a pretty good notion that she violated some serious criminal statutes; after all, participating in a fraud involving the mails (a magazine) or wire (somewhere along the line) is a Federal issue. Where are the Feds?
There is certainly a good argument to make that it is often necessary to prosecute as a deterrent to the next person willing to try the same felonious act. I have argued in these pages that the FBI needs to go hard against the Clinton Foundation for just that reason, lest the next powerful person or couple use a phony-baloney charitable entity to disguise an influence-peddling scam.
Given the anti-violence, anti-rape climate we are in, it is imperative that equally phony-baloney accusers like Jackie Coakley McGovern are hauled into court and toted off to prison, lest rape accusations equate to a cry of "Wolf!", to become a weapon of revenge.
Where, we ask, are the Federal cops? You all know where she is.
Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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