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November/ December 2013 The War of Rape

What happened to Jamie Leigh Jones in Iraq?

By Stephanie Mencimer

“I don’t get bruises on wrists and in between my legs, on my thighs, and all the locations where they were located, during any everyday situation,” Jones said. “And when they’re connected with a crime, it makes them severe to me. Because those bruises weren’t supposed to be there when I woke up. And it was a severe situation, which made that severe to me.”

Evidence also showed that her breast implants were not ruptured and her pectoral muscles weren’t torn. And it would be hard to call them “disfigured,” as Jones has dramatically described them. Defense lawyers described her problem as a common complication called “bottoming out.” That’s when a breast implant slips down below the muscle and makes the nipple unnaturally high. Defense experts testified that the condition is more likely to happen in women who get implants that are too big for their frames, as they suggested Jones had done.

More problematic, Jones’s lawyer could not produce a single witness from Iraq who said Jones had complained at the time about her chest being injured. She didn’t mention it to the Army doctor. A KBR security officer who helped Jones leave the country testified that she put on a seven-pound flak jacket and climbed aboard a helicopter with no trouble at all, which would have been impossible if her pectoral muscles had been torn. Even when Jones got back to the U.S. and saw her regular gynecologist a few days later, she told the doctor she’d been raped but didn’t mention anything about her chest or breast implants. About three weeks after she went to see her plastic surgeon, a receptionist for her surgeon recorded a message from Jones that said “per her attorney, the doctor should not put any specifics into her report, only that she was raped.”

Because of the extensive and often conflicting medical and psychological expert testimony in the case, the judge appointed forensic psychiatrist Victor Scarano to conduct an independent examination of Jones. Scarano saw in her paper trail a serious effort by Jones to manage her medical information to reflect favorably on her case, depending on the person she was talking to. He proved a devastating witness. He concluded that she had had consensual sex with Bortz, and that she likely had fabricated her story and faked symptoms of PTSD in the pursuit of financial gain and to support the role of national victims’ advocate she had created for herself. He diagnosed her as suffering from somatization disorder, a condition in which people have unexplained physical symptoms to evoke sympathy from others, and that she had developed it at a young age, as well as narcissistic personality disorder.

He testified that Jones couldn’t possibly be suffering from PTSD. Even if, as she said, she was unconscious during the alleged rape (which he didn’t believe), she would not have had any memories to repress. He added, “You find that people with post-traumatic stress disorder are—usually withdraw and don’t go out a lot. Ms. Jones has created a life and has gone to the public media, 20/20, The Rachel Maddow Show, testified before Congress, helped with a bill, which I think was great.… But people with serious, significant post-traumatic stress disorder don’t do that.”

On the stand, Jones backtracked somewhat. She denied ever telling anyone she’d been gang-raped and blamed 20/20 for using the term in connection with her case. Defense lawyers produced an enormous pile of evidence to the contrary. Even her own father contradicted her account.

When Andrew McKinney, the lawyer representing Bortz, cross-examined Jones, he read her a quote from the State Department’s official investigative report, which found no evidence that she had been raped by more than one person. He said, “You know that there was no evidence found whatsoever in your room, of torn clothing, of items misplaced or displaced, of the bed clothes being unduly scattered about the room, nothing that would indicate signs of violence or that some sort of altercation took place or that anything of that nature might have happened. You know that there’s absolutely no evidence of that, correct, Ms. Jones? Isn’t that so?”

Jones replied, “The story was told on my body, Mr. McKinney.”

After sixteen days, the defense lawyers closed early. Joanne Vorpahl, representing KBR, ended her arguments by declaring, “I know it might make a better manuscript or a book or a play or a movie or screenplay to tell the story that Jamie Jones was gang-raped and locked in a shipping container. But I’m asking you to reject that fiction and do justice in this case.”

When the jurors did just that, they came under a fair amount of criticism from feminists for rejecting Jones’s claims. One blogger at Care2 wrote that the verdict was simply another illustration of the country’s rape culture, in which the jurors found that “Jones had it coming.”

But the jurors, who spent four weeks reviewing all the testimony and evidence, were hardly a bunch of cretins. One juror, Paul Oldenburgh, was so disturbed by the trial and the contradiction between the evidence and Jones’s claims that he published an e-book on his experience to try to explain the jury’s reasoning to the critics.

Oldenburgh is a cherubic middle-aged Houston systems engineer who is originally from Maine. A self-described liberal, he was surprised to find himself on the jury after reporting to the lawyers during the selection process that he had seen gay friends of his harassed because of their sexual orientation. He has been stung by the criticism of the jury. “I took it a little personally. We’re not a bunch of hicks. We looked at the evidence and we evaluated it,” he said during an interview in 2012 in a Houston Spaghetti Western restaurant. “I believe we made the right decision.”

Oldenburgh says that the jurors were a very diverse group, and that one juror actually suffered from PTSD and broke down a bit during the trial. He says the jurors wanted to believe Jones, but in the end it didn’t take very long to decide that Jones had not been raped. He says there was simply too much eyewitness testimony that contradicted Jones’s account. “How do you get that many people to do a cover-up?” he asks. And the witnesses Jones brought in, notably her own mother, hurt her case more than they helped. (At one point, Jones’s mother exclaimed that KBR had forged some of her emails entered into evidence, even though there was no proof or other testimony that supported her allegation. That fact wasn’t lost on the jurors, Oldenburgh said.)

Jones’s primary expert on KBR’s alleged history of ignoring rampant sexual harassment overseas, Amy Katz, had only worked for KBR for about eighteen months, in the late 1990s, in the Balkans. She had never even been to Iraq. Worse, on the stand, she talked about her resume, which listed skills in “clairvoyance” and “dream tending,” and the spiritual work she did through the International School of Clairvoyance.

Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter at Mother Jones and a contributing editor at the Washington Monthly.

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