Rolling Stone defamation trial over rape article begins

The attorney says Jackie's deposition testimony contradicts the magazine's portrayal.

The 2014 article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was explosive. It told the harrowing story of a woman the magazine called "Jackie", a UVA student who claimed that seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity gang raped her in a gruesome initiation ritual. A police investigation found no evidence to back up claims. Eramo's attorneys claimed the article portrayed her as indifferent to Jackie's plight and only interested in protecting the university's reputation.

University administrator Nicole Eramo claims the article cast her as the "chief villain" who sought to protect the school by discouraging Jackie from reporting her alleged assault to police.

Erdely's November 2014 story described in alarming detail a woman's account of being raped by seven men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012. A police investigation found no evidence to back up Jackie's claims and details in the narrative didn't hold up under scrutiny by other media. They further stated, "The depiction of Dean Eramo in the article was balanced and described the challenges of her role".

Attorney Scott Sexton stressed during opening statements on Tuesday that university administrator Nicole Eramo must prove that the magazine acted with "actual malice".

The trial is scheduled to begin Monday at the federal court in Charlottesville.

- When a University of Virginia student confided in Nicole Eramo that she had been gang raped at a fraternity, Eramo says she took the shocking account seriously - so seriously that she referred the student to police, twice. That means it knew what it was writing about Eramo was false or at least should have known it wasn't true. Those emails show Eramo checked in on Jackie and urged her to report the sexual assault to police. The defense attorney says 80 hours were spent fact checking the story, as well as four hours with Jackie.

Claire finished his opening statements around 9:30 a.m.

Rolling Stone's lawyers counter that Erdely had no reason not to trust Jackie but stress that the young woman's credibility isn't the issue in the case.

Eramo, who was serving as associate dean of students at the time of the article, is seeking $7.85 million.

The juror pool also was asked if they were or had some connection to a victim of sexual assault, any allegiance to a fraternity or sorority, whether they were subscribers to Rolling Stone magazine and, more generally, if they were untrusting of "the media" - which, according to a quick polling, majority were. The case does hold the possibility of publicly hearing from Jackie for the first time beyond her already-published interviews with Rolling Stone and The Post; she sat for a video-recorded deposition in Eramo's case. But the aftermath that followed included a lateral transfer to a position that doesn't fill Eramo with the same pride and passion she enjoyed while helping students.

The jury will get to watch a video of Jackie's deposition, but it will not be shown to the public, according to Libby Locke, another attorney for Eramo. Jury selection began on Monday morning. After it was published, UVA suspended all fraternities.

After a year and a half of legal battling, the case is finally going before a jury. "It was very different from what I knew of the story".



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