The Erin Andrews trial in a courtroom in Nashville, Tennessee, has become a maelstrom of ugliness and embarrassment. At the heart of the trial is a nude tape of the journalist and sportscaster, filmed by a stalker without her knowledge and posted online against her will.
Andrews is suing the stalker and other involved parties in civil court, for a total of $75 million in damages. The trial is currently in progress. At the most basic level, the case is about a sex crime and the gross invasion of Erin’s privacy.
But there’s more to it than that. As testimony continues, that is alarming, painful details about the incident that paint an appalling portrait of how it has changed sportscaster’s life. Since the tape appeared on the internet, Andrews has frequently been told that it was good for her career.
Even before the Erin Andrews trial, she’s had to battle an ongoing media narrative suggesting that she leaked the footage herself as a publicity stunt. And as Andrews revealed on the witness stand, she was at one point barred from doing her job as a sports reporter until she participated in a televised interview about what had happened.
So this trial isn’t merely about justice for Andrews — it’s also about victims of abuse, particularly women, and how they are too often shamed, objectified, and punished for crimes committed against them.
Andrews is a journalist who is perhaps best known for her tenure at ESPN. She was employed by the network for eight years (from 2004 to 2012), eventually becoming the sideline reporter for premier college football and basketball games.
In 2008, while Andrews was in Nashville covering a Vanderbilt football game, a man named Michael David Barrett altered the peephole of her Marriott hotel room and filmed her undressing. The videos and images made their way to the internet, where they have been viewed, according to an expert who testified at the trial, nearly 17 million times since being made public in 2009.
In December 2009, Barrett pleaded guilty to interstate stalking (prosecutors said he stalked Andrews to at least three cities and had multiple videos) and was sentenced to 27 months in prison, the maximum possible sentence, according to US District Judge Manuel Real.
“Thirty months isn’t enough,” Andrews said at the sentencing. “You violated me, and you violated all women. You are a sexual predator, a sexual deviant, and they should lock you up.”
Andrews’s civil trial against Barrett, the Marriott hotel’s management, and Windsor Capital Group, the company that operates the hotel, began on February 29; she is suing for $75 million.
In the Erin Andrews trial, she aims to show the damage the incident has caused in her life, while Barrett, the Vanderbilt Marriott hotel management, and Windsor Capital aim to show that no harm has been done. The very nature of the trial means that gory, maddening stuff might be dredged up. Andrews alleges that Barrett asked someone at the hotel which room she was staying in, and that the information was given freely. He then booked the room next to hers, and she was never made aware that someone would make a request like this.