A federal judge in Virginia today dismissed one element of a $7.5 million defamation suit brought by a University of Virginia dean against Rolling Stone over its November 2014 story detailing an alleged fraternity gang rape.
Among other defamation claims, Dean Nicole Eramo argued the article implied she pretended to befriend “Jackie,” while really looking out for the university’s interests, discouraging the alleged rape victim from lodging a formal complaint.
“Having heard the evidence, the court believes that no reasonable juror could find that ‘A Rape on Campus,’ read as a whole and in context of the contemporaneous promotional material, reasonably implies that Eramo was a false friend,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Glen Conrad.
The 10-person jury will now consider whether Rolling Stone harmed Eramo’s career, reputation, and health by making other false statements about her in the original story, as well as in interviews with other media about the article.
Rolling Stone issued a statement praising the judge’s partial dismissal, adding, “we trust the jury will find that [Eramo’s] remaining claims also have no merit.”
As lawyers for the magazine presented their defense this morning, they played more excerpts from a September 2014 audio recording of Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely interviewing Jackie.
In it, Jackie said her father held her responsible for the alleged gang rape, also saying she had seriously contemplated suicide. Only the prospect of her cat being put down stopped her from hanging herself; she told Erdely she had already bought a rope and written a suicide note and a will, the local NBC affiliate reported.
Tomorrow, the jury will hear closing arguments, preparing to deliberate.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.