Charlottesville: A federal jury has found that Rolling Stone magazine and writer Sabrina Erdely defamed a former University of Virginia associate dean in a since-retracted story about campus rape.
It took the jury three days of deliberations to decide that Erdely should be liable for defamation, with actual malice, for her “A Rape on Campus” feature story, which has since been discredited, New York Post reported on Friday.
Rolling Stone magazine and Wenner Media are also responsible for defaming former UVA associate dean Nicole Eramo, jurors decided.
Eramo sued the three defendants for $7.5 million, claiming the 9,000-word article, which was published in November 2014, painted her as being indifferent to gang rape allegations made by a student identified only as “Jackie”.
She smiled tightly with tears in her eyes as the verdict was read.
In the next phase of the trial, the jury will be asked to determine damages.
During closing arguments, Eramo’s attorney argued that the campus rape story, which began with Jackie’s horrific account of being gang-raped at a fraternity house, was reported with a “reckless disregard for the truth”.
“Every one of [Erdely’s] stories has a victim, a villain and a vindicator … Erdely and Rolling Stone were intent on imposing that on this story,” lawyer Tom Clare charged.
Rolling Stone’s lawyers contended that Erdely was fooled by Jackie, and had no reason not to believe her story at the time.
“Sabrina was acting in good faith when she wrote the article with the information she had,” lawyer Scott Sexton insisted. “Our world would shut down if we walked out that courtroom door and expected everyone to lie to us.”