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Jury Finds Rolling Stone |Defamed College Admin

(CN) - A jury has found that Rolling Stone magazine defamed a University of Virginia administrator in a discredited story about a gang rape at a campus fraternity house.

Nicole Eramo sued Rolling Stone in May 2015, claiming the magazine and writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely defamed her by depicting her in the magazine's now-retracted "A Rape on Campus" story as indifferent to allegations of sexual assault.

Eramo was seeking more than $7.5 million in damages in a lawsuit filed in the Charlottesville, Va. Circuit Court.

The magazine retracted the article after several news organizations and the Columbia University journalism school identified numerous serious flaws in it.

Erdely's piece purportedly lifted the veil on alleged incidents of sexual assault on the University of Virginia campus, centering on the experiences of an 18-year-old freshman identified as "Jackie."

According to the article, Jackie was punched in the face, pushed through a glass table, raped and violated with beer bottles in a three hour assault by seven Phi Kappa Psi pledges at a frat party on campus.

Afterwards, Erdely wrote, Jackie turned to Eramo, the head of the university's sexual misconduct board, to report the incident and have her alleged attackers held accountable. But instead of justice, the piece said , Jackie was "Brushed off" by the administrator, who allegedly told her "nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school."

For a time, the article was a sensation. But then attention turned to scrutiny, and critics began to identify deep-seated problems in how the story was reported and edited.

Eramo said Rolling Stone turned a deaf ear to the growing criticism, and continued to chastise her for mishandling the rape allegation until Dec. 5, 2014, when it was "forced" to retract Erdely's article.

A subsequent Columbia Journalism School analysis noted that none of the accused rapists was interviewed for the article, nor were any of the friends who Jackie claimed had turned their backs on her out of loyalty to their own fraternities.

Columbia concluded the story was a "journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking."

Eramo said, "Erdley and Rolling Stone claimed to have interviewed sources they did not interview, claimed to have verified Jackie's claims then they did no such thing, and claimed to know who Jackie's alleged perpetrators were when in fact they had no idea whether they even existed."

Eramo said the story Jackie told her differed greatly from what was published in Rolling Stone, and that she did try and help the student seek justice against her attackers, "by going to the police, by pursuing misconduct proceedings within the University, or by both."

She also claimed the investigation went nowhere because Jackie ultimately declined to cooperate.

The dean said that Rolling Stone bought a photo of her from a campus newspaper, and then altered it to show her sneering and wild-eyed, giving a thumbs up while a student cries at her desk and protestors stand outside her office window holding signs with the slogans "Stop victim blaming" and "She's broken (He's OK)."

Eramo was barred from counseling students during a university investigation into Rolling Stone's claims, and students counseled by Eramo "were also harmed by having to 'start over' with a different counselor," the complaint says.

Eramo accused both the writer and the magazine of valuing a lucrative story over journalistic integrity. - Developing story.

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