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The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia (AFP Photo/Jay Paul)

US college dean awarded $3 mn in Rolling Stone defamation case

WT24 Desk

Washington – A federal jury has awarded $3 million in damages to a University of Virginia official found to have been defamed in a discredited 2014 story about a purported gang rape on campus, AFP reports.

Nicole Eramo, an associate dean of students, was awarded $2 million from reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and $1 million from Rolling Stone magazine and publisher Wenner Media, documents from the court in Charlottesville, Virginia said.

Eramo had sought $7.5 million in damages after the article said she had discouraged reporting of the alleged attack for fear it might tarnish the elite university’s image. Eramo’s suit alleged that Rolling Stone acted recklessly and willfully disregarded facts in reporting the story.

The jury on Friday found that both the magazine and Erdely were liable for defamation.  Headlined “A Rape on Campus,” the story triggered protests when it appeared in late 2014 with its explosive claims of a violent gang rape at a fraternity house, as recounted by the alleged victim, a student identified only as “Jackie.”

But the story began to unravel within weeks, with “Jackie” refusing to discuss the alleged incident and investigators and police uncovering no evidence that it had ever taken place.

Rolling Stone retracted the story and apologized after a Columbia University investigation exposed “avoidable” failures in basic journalistic practices during its reporting and editing.

Former members of the fraternity have filed a separate lawsuit. Eramo testified during the trial that she faced threats and considered suicide after the article came out, The Washington Post reported.

She said it seriously hurt her professional credibility and made it impossible for her to continue working as an advocate for sexual assault prevention, according to the newspaper.

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