Rolling Stone ordered to pay $3m over campus rape story

7:58 pm on 8 November 2016

The magazine Rolling Stone and a journalist have been ordered to pay $US3 million in damages over a false article about a gang rape at the University of Virginia.

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in 2014.

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in 2014. Photo: AFP

A federal court jury on Monday awarded $US3m in damages to a University of Virginia administrator that it previously found was defamed by the magazine's now-retracted story of a gang rape, court documents show.

The 10-person US District Court jury in Charlottesville, Virginia found that the writer of the article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, should pay $US2m in damages and the magazine $US1m to the administrator, Nicole Eramo.

Ms Eramo had sought at least $US7.5m in compensatory damages and $US350,000 in punitive damages in the high-profile case.

The jurors last week found Rolling Stone, its owner Wenner Media and Ms Erdely liable for actual malice against Ms Eramo in the magazine's November 2014 story "A Rape on Campus".

The magazine reported that a female student identified only as "Jackie" was raped at a university fraternity in 2012. The story sparked a national debate about sexual assault at US colleges and resonated with many who saw it as a battle cry against sexual violence on campuses.

The magazine admitted that it never sought comment from the seven men accused of the alleged rape and retracted the story in April 2015. An outside review found the magazine had failed to follow basic journalistic safeguards.

Ms Eramo, who was then an associate dean of students, accused the magazine of portraying her as the story's villain and as focused on hushing up sexual assault reports. She now works in an administrative role at the university.

Ms Eramo has claimed damages from the story included harm to her reputation, embarrassment, emotional distress and humiliation.

Campus sexual assault remains a major concern, with some reports estimating that one in five female students will be a victim.

- Reuters

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs