Virginia trial set to begin over debunked Rolling Stone rape story
A defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine over its debunked story of a University of Virginia gang rape is set to start in federal court on Monday.
University administrator Nicole Eramo is seeking a total of $7.85 million in damages over the 2014 story which described the assault of a freshman woman during a fraternity party in 2012.
In her lawsuit, Eramo said she was cast as the “chief villain of the story.”
The article, “A Rape on Campus,” caused an uproar over the issue of sexual violence in U.S. colleges, but Rolling Stone retracted it in April 2015 when discrepancies surfaced.
Eramo, the former associate dean on sexual violence issues, filed suit against Rolling Stone, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and publisher Wenner Media in 2015.
In her lawsuit filed in Charlottesville federal court, Eramo claimed that Rolling Stone falsely portrayed her as callous and indifferent to the allegations of gang rape. The woman at the center of the story is named only as “Jackie” in the story and court papers.
Lawyers for Rolling Stone have argued that Eramo’s attorneys must prove that Erdely and the magazine’s editors acted with “actual malice” – meaning reckless disregard for the truth – when they published the claims against Eramo.
Rolling Stone lawyers have said that up until the magazine’s publication of an editor’s note about the story’s inconsistencies, it had full confidence in Jackie and the story.
Rolling Stone commissioned a review by Columbia University that criticized the publication for reporting and editing lapses.
Defense lawyers said last week that Eramo’s lawyers had leaked a video deposition of Erdely to ABC television’s “20/20” news program for broadcast on Friday. They asked U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad to punish Eramo’s team for violating a protective order and to move the trial, claiming that the broadcast could taint the jury pool.
Conrad barred Eramo and her legal team from breaching the order anew and from using the Erdely deposition at trial. They also could face more sanctions, he wrote.
A New York judge dismissed a federal defamation lawsuit in June that was brought by members of the University of Virginia fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, against Wenner Media, Rolling Stone and Erdely.
The fraternity has also sued Rolling Stone over the story. The magazine is owned by Jann Wenner, who founded it in 1967.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum)