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Why Jamie Leigh Jones Lost Her KBR Rape Case

Her story of a brutal attack in Iraq sparked a national outcry—but how much of it is true?

| Thu Jul. 7, 2011 6:30 AM EDT

One of the other issues the jury will have to consider is whether Jones' current symptoms predate the alleged rape. In psychological exams ordered by KBR's insurance company, Jones repeatedly denied any history of mental health problems. According to news coverage of the trial, Jones also denied such a history in the KBR medical questionnaire she filled out before she went to Iraq.

But medical records produced in discovery show that in the year or so before she deployed overseas, Jones was treated with Effexor, an anti-depressant; Ambien, a sleeping pill; Lamictal, a drug prescribed for seizures and bipolar disorder; Vicodin, a painkiller; and Zoloft, an anti-anxiety drug. KBR lawyer Joanne Vorpahl questioned Jones about this omission on the witness stand. Jones replied that she had taken the drugs "a long time before" she deployed to Iraq, and that she thought the condition was resolved so that "I did not need to disclose it." Vorpahl shot back that Jones had disclosed medical issues dating back to kindergarten.

Jones' medical records are full of information that could cause jurors to question her credibility. Perhaps most significantly, about two months before Jones went to Iraq, according to court records, she told her doctor that she might have had sex with someone; she'd had several drinks, passed out, and couldn't remember what had transpired.

Jones' medical records are full of information that could cause jurors to question her credibility.

While on the witness stand, Jones was also confronted with doctors' reports from a hospital admission when she was 17, just a couple of years before she signed on to go to Iraq. She had complained of a fever and multiple neurological symptoms, including difficulty walking, but after a battery of tests, the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her. Medical records indicate that doctors thought Jones' symptoms might be a psychosomatic response to stress at home. That's because, according to the medical records, some of her symptoms disappeared when no one was looking. A nurse reported that she saw Jones walk to the bathroom, only to stumble and grab the wall once she saw the nurse, for instance.

The evidence in her medical records indicates that Jones has alleged rape before. The records, according to KBR experts who reviewed them, show that in 2002, she and her mother told a doctor that a boyfriend had raped her. Later, just a few months before going to Iraq, she told a doctor that her 40-year-old manager at KBR in Houston had sexually assaulted her. She asked about getting a rape kit but was told that too much time had passed to collect evidence. In her civil suit, Jones accused the KBR manager of sexually harassing her, a charge KBR planned to counter with evidence suggesting that Jones was having a consensual relationship with him. In any case, the judge dismissed all of Jones' sexual harassment claims related to her employment in Houston, so these allegations were never presented to the jury.

Kelly, Jones' lawyer, concedes that his client has some issues in her past. "Jamie never claimed to be a perfectly clean slate when she walked in the door," he says. But her history, he says, is irrelevant. "The fact that they've brought in everything they can of Jamie's past is frankly disgusting. I think the jury will probably see through it."

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 Bortz 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.

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