Rolling Stone and Reporter of UVA Campus Assault Story Found Liable in Defamation Trial

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The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at UVA.Photo: Jay Paul/Getty Images

After questions began to arise concerning the legitimacy of Rolling Stone’s now-retracted story, “A Rape on Campus,” University of Virginia associate dean of students Nicole Eramo filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the magazine and journalist Sabrina Erdely for defamation. The trial began in mid-October, and on Friday, the jury ruled both the magazine and Erdely are liable for reporting what now appears to be a false story.

According to the Daily Beast, the jury ruled that Rolling Stone and Erdely acted with “actual malice,” meaning she knew what she was writing about Eramo was false or inaccurate but chose to print it anyway. Eramo is seeking $7.5 million in damages from the magazine.

Following the ruling, Rolling Stone released a statement saying it hoped its error wouldn’t detract from future investigations into campus rape. Read the full statement below:

“For almost 50 years, Rolling Stone has aimed to produce journalism with the highest reporting and ethical standards, and with a strong humanistic point of view. When we published ‘A Rape on Campus’ in 2014, we were attempting to tackle the very serious and complex topic of sexual assault on college campuses, a subject that is more relevant today than ever. In our desire to present this complicated issue from the perspective of a survivor, we overlooked reporting paths and made journalistic mistakes that we are committed to never making again. We deeply regret these missteps and sincerely apologize to anyone hurt by them, including Ms. Eramo. 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. 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.”

This isn’t the end of Rolling Stone’s legal problems; a second lawsuit, filed by the UVA frat Erdely wrote about in the retracted story, has yet to go to trial.