Rolling Stone and journalist found guilty over false Virginia rape story

Sabrina Rubin Erdely walks to the federal courthouse in CharlottesvilleImage copyright
AP

Image caption

An investigation found numerous flaws in Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story

Rolling Stone magazine and a journalist have been found guilty of defamation over a false article about a gang rape at the University of Virginia.

The $7.5m (£6m) lawsuit was brought by Nicole Eramo, an associate dean from the university, who said the article had cast her as the “chief villain”.

The 2014 article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, included the rape claim of an unidentified female student.

The magazine retracted the article in April 2015, citing inconsistencies.

The 9,000-word article, entitled A Rape on Campus, centred on the testimony of a student, referred to as “Jackie”, who claimed to have been gang raped at a party held at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity’s house in 2012.

An investigation by the Charlottesville Police Department had found no evidence that “Jackie” had been gang raped.

Nicole Eramo was in charge of overseeing sexual violence cases at the university when the report was published.

The amount she is due in damages will be determined at a later date.

Image copyright
AP

Image caption

Nicole Eramo was accused in the article of having tried to persuade Jackie not to report the alleged rape

The 10-member federal jury in Charlottesville found that Erdely was responsible for libel with actual malice.

They also found the magazine and its publisher responsible for defaming Ms Eramo.

Lawyers representing the journalist, the magazine and its parent company, Wenner Media, said that while the magazine acknowledged its mistakes it believed it had not acted with actual malice, the Washington Post reported.

In a statement, the magazine added: “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.”

A report from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, commissioned by Rolling Stone, found flaws at every level of the magazine’s editing process.

It described the article as “a story of journalistic failure”.

Rolling Stone and journalist found guilty over false Virginia rape story

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