Rolling Stone, Writer Found Liable In Suit Over UVA Gang Rape Story

All three defendants in a suit over a debunked Rolling Stone story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia were found Friday to have defamed a former dean at the school.

The $7.5 million defamation suit, filed by former University of Virginia assistant dean of students Nicole Eramo, named reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Rolling Stone magazine and its parent company Wenner Media as defendants. A federal jury found Erdley liable for defamation with actual malice, while Rolling Stone and Wenner were also found responsible for defaming Eramo, according to The Washington Post.

The jury is expected to hear additional evidence from Eramo and her lawyers this week in order to decide how much she was affected by the narrative in the Rolling Stone story, according to the Post report. Eramo may ask for a different sum than the $7.5 million in damages she originally requested.

The magazine released a statement after the verdict, obtained New York Times reporter Sydney Ember, apologizing to those who may have been hurt by its reporting, including Eramo:

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The story in question depicted an alleged gang rape of a student at UVa. who the magazine called “Jackie” by men in the school’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, as well as what she described as her inability to find help on campus.

When the story was first published in November 2014, it received praise and sparked protests on the university’s campus. But, after Charlottesville, Virginia Police were unable to find any evidence of the attack—or even that the fraternity held a party the night Jackie alleged she was raped—the magazine retracted the story and apologized in April 2015.

A Columbia Journalism School review found that Rolling Stone’s story was a “failure” that “could have been avoided.” It asserted that Erdely and her colleagues did not heed questions presented by fact checkers or think critically about problems presented by her reporting. It also brought up the point that, by trying to get a rape victim’s story out there to raise awareness, Rolling Stone actually did harm by spreading the narrative that women lie about being raped.

Phi Kappa Psi also sued Rolling Stone for defamation in 2015. That case is still pending, according to the Miami Herald.

This post has been updated.

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