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Fraternity Sues Rolling Stone Over Rape Story

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) - The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia claims in court that Rolling Stone and the author of a retracted campus rape story owe it $25 million for destroying its reputation.

The lawsuit stems from Rolling Stone's publication of "A Rape on Campus," which purported to detail a harrowing attack on a freshman named "Jackie" at the Phi Kappa Psi house in September 2012.

The articles, penned by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, claimed the victim was raped by seven men while others watched in a second floor bedroom during a fraternity party.

The story was later discredited after a number of news outlets identified huge holes in the account, including that no fraternity party was held on the night of the alleged attack, and that the student identified as the main attacker, identified as "Drew," did not exist.

Two subsequent investigations, by the Charlottesville Police Department and the Columbia University school of journalism, concluded not gang rape had occurred at the fraternity house, and Rolling Stone retracted the story in April.

Weeks later, the magazine's editor, Will Dana, resigned.

In a complaint filed Monday in Charlottesville, Va. circuit court, the fraternity claims, "Rolling Stone endorsed and encouraged Erdely's efforts to troll elite American college campuses in search of a sensational and graphic rape narrative, and rejected potential stories from universities such as Yale that lacked the sensational quality Rolling Stone sought."

"Having never attempted to identify or verify the existence of Drew, Rolling Stone made a rushed, last-minute decision to use a pseudonym approximately two weeks prior to the article's publication," the fraternity claims.

"These actions by Rolling Stone were part of an intentional and deliberate quid pro quo arrangement in which Rolling Stone intentionally avoided sourcing and corroborating the story in return for Jackie's continuing cooperation and willingness to not back down from her story," the complaint says.

"The story was simply too tempting, too sensational, to let facts get in the way," the fraternity says, adding, "The events described in the Article never happened. Jackie was not

gang-raped at Phi Kappa Psi on September 28, 2012, or at any other time."

But after the article was published, and even after it was retracted, the fraternity contends, it's members have been subjected to online threats and taunts on campus, and have had trouble recruiting new members.

It claims Rolling Stone knew the potential consequences of its allegations, but proceeded to publish the article anyway.

In addition to the $25 million the fraternity is seeking in compensatory damages, it organization is also seeking $350,000 in punitive damages.

It is represented by Thomas Albro of Tremblay & Smith in Charlottesville, and Rodney Smolla of Wilmington, Del.

The fraternity's complaint is just the latest legal fallout from the controversial story.

In July, three alumni members of the fraternity filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court claiming they continue to suffer as a result of Erdely's excesses. The magazine also faces a $7.5 million federal lawsuit filed by Nicole Eramo, an associate dean at the university, who claims she was libeled in the piece.

Neither Rolling Stone nor Erdely immediately responded to a request for comment from Courthouse News.

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