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Rolling Stone’s discredited U.Va. rape exposé defamed administrator, jury finds

A federal jury on Friday found that Rolling Stone magazine and one of its journalists had defamed a University of Virginia administrator in a retracted story. The jury decided that article author Sabrina Rubin Erdely had committed libel with actual malice.

Nicole Eramo, a former associate dean of students at U.Va., sued for her portrayal in the 2014 article “A Rape on Campus,” which told the story of student known as Jackie about an alleged gang rape at a fraternity. The veracity of the student’s account was later discredited.

Eramo’s lawyers argued Rolling Stone unfairly cast her as a villain who was indifferent to the student’s plight. Eramo filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone and its publisher for $7.5 million in 2015.

Rolling Stone’s lawyer defended Erdely and the magazine during the trial by arguing that the student’s compelling story deceived the reporter into believing she was writing the truth.

The 10-person jury also had to decide if Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Erdely defamed Eramo on a podcast and radio show recorded after the article was published, as well as in statements to the Washington Post and other media, NBC 29 reported.

The jurors heard 16 days of testimony from 12 witnesses including Eramo and Erdely, as well as video testimony by the student at the center of the case.

The Washington Post reports the jury will consider damages and hear additional evidence before it decides how much money the magazine will pay.

“It is our deep hope that our failings do not deflect from the pervasive issues discussed in the piece, and that reporting on sexual assault cases ultimately results in campus policies that better protect our students,” said Rolling Stone in a statement Friday. “We will continue to publish stories that shine a light on the defining social, political and cultural issues of our times, and we will continue to seek the truth in every story we publish.”

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