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Jamie Leigh Jones lawsuit falling apart



Jamie Leigh Jones was one of the stars of the litigation-lobby-sponsored "Hot Coffee" and a poster-child for the anti-arbitration movement—though her arbitration clause had nothing to do with the Department of Justice's decision not to criminally prosecute her rape allegations, and did not block her lawsuit against KBR or her alleged rapist.

This may not be a surprise to those who read my skeptical reporting (Dec. 2007 I, Dec. 2007 II, Dec. 2007 III, Feb. 2008 I, and Feb. 2008 II), but Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer (an inspiration for the "Hot Coffee" movie) is discovering that Halliburton's claims that Jones's allegations were false was not a smearing of an alleged rape victim, but have some merit.

The court has already thrown out Jones's most sensational allegations—gang rape and being "locked in a container" for reporting the rape—out of the case for lack of evidence. The medical evidence isn't very friendly to Jones, either. And her damages claims seem exaggerated: "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."

One thing Jones has working in her favor is that her story seems so incredible, her pursuit of justice so sincere, that it's almost unimaginable that she would make it up. After all, why would anyone put themselves through that kind of torture? But KBR and Boartz also have a ready answer to that question. It's The Jamie Leigh Story: How my Rape in Iraq and Cover-up Made Me a Crusader for Justice, the working title of her book.

For years, Jones has been in discussions with book agents, screenwriters, and production companies. In 2008, Paul Pompian, a film producer with dozens of docudrama credits to his name, bought the rights to her story. He says that his company is working on film version of Jones' story and that a book is also in the works. "Frankly, we're waiting for the outcome of the trial," he told me. "We're hoping for a verdict that will give us a third act. Hopefully it will be an outcome that's good for us and the movie and especially for Jamie Leigh." Both the screenwriter and Jones' coauthor were expected to be in Houston watching part of the trial, according to Pompian.

When KBR's lawyers first learned of the book deal, they went to court seeking access to the manuscript and other documents. Jones fought the disclosure, arguing that it would diminish the work's financial value. Jones' lawyers filed a motion with the court declaring that the manuscript was a work of fiction.

Update, July 12: I based my analysis of the trial on Mencimer's reporting, but Charles Boartz attorney Andrew McKinney writes us to say that I wasn't precisely accurate: "False imprisonment was booted, but the issue still went to the jury under the guise of fraud in the inducement. JLJ lost, but it was in the case. As for the gang rape allegation, it was simply abandoned for lack of evidence. She surely did make the allegations, which is why she lost, among other things."

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.