Rolling Stone slams defamation claim in campus rape story
By DENISE LAVOIE
Nov. 17, 2017
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Rolling Stone is defending itself against a defamation lawsuit over a discredited article about a University of Virginia gang rape by arguing that members of a school fraternity knew about discrepancies in the woman's claims weeks before the article was published and should have warned the magazine.
Lawyers for Rolling Stone argue in court documents that the fraternity and its members withheld that information from the magazine and its reporter, "at a time when disclosing such information would have prevented publication" of the woman's allegations.
A judge had dismissed the lawsuit filed in New York by three Phi Kappa Psi members. But a federal appeals court reinstated the lawsuit in September, finding that the 2014 article, "A Rape on Campus," could enable a reader to conclude that many or all members of the fraternity participated in gang rapes as an initiation ritual and that all members knowingly ignored the rapes.
A woman identified as "Jackie" in the article told the magazine she was raped by seven men at a fraternity house in September 2012. But an investigation by police in Charlottesville, the home of UVA's campus, found no evidence to back up the claims.
Rolling Stone later retracted the article and apologized.
The lawsuit by the three former fraternity members was one of three defamation cases filed against the magazine over the article.
After a 2016 trial, a Virginia jury awarded $3 million in damages to an associate dean. Rolling Stone appealed, but later settled with the dean. In June, Rolling Stone settled a case filed by the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi for $1.65 million.
The three former fraternity members were not named in the article, but in their lawsuit they say the article included certain details that could lead readers familiar with Phi Kappa Psi to identify them.
The men's lawyers declined to comment on Rolling Stone's defense, outlined in a Nov. 10 written court filing.
In a statement, Rolling Stone said it is "confident the case has no merit."
"Rolling Stone has taken full responsibility for our actions in reporting Jackie's allegations, and we wish that the fraternity and Plaintiffs would do the same," the statement said.
The magazine also argues that the former fraternity members' claims fail because the men did not suffer any actual harm or damages as a result of the article.
Rolling Stone, a magazine that chronicled the music and politics of the counterculture movement, is now on the market, with founder Jann Wenner planning to sell his company's controlling stake.