A federal court jury decided that a Rolling Stone journalist defamed former University of Virginia associate dean Nicole Eramo in a 2014 magazine article about sexual assault on campus that included a debunked account of a fraternity gang rape the Washington Post reports. The 10-member jury concluded that Rolling Stone journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely was responsible for libel, with actual malice, in the case brought by Eramo, who oversaw sexual violence cases at the time of the article’s publication. The jury also found the magazine and its publisher responsible for defaming Eramo.
The jury is yet to decide on a damage figure; Eramo is seeking $7.5 million. The story opened with a graphic depiction of a fraternity gang rape that went viral online and sent shock waves across the U-Va. campus community. Within days of publication, key elements of the account fell apart under scrutiny. The magazine retracted the story in April 2015. Eramo alleged that the magazine’s portrayal of her as callous and dismissive of rape reports on campus was untrue and unfair. Jurors saw video testimony from Jackie, the U-Va. student whose allegations of a 2012 gang rape at Phi Kappa Psi were later cast into doubt. Lawyers for Erdely, Rolling Stone, and its corporate parent company, Wenner Media, argued that while the magazine acknowledged its mistakes, it had not acted with actual malice, the high bar set for defamation cases involving public figures like Eramo.