Rolling Stone slapped with defamations suits
September 21, 2015  //  By:   //  US News  //  No Comment

by Carol Thompson

Three University of Virginia graduates and members of a fraternity who were portrayed in a debunked account of a gang rape in a retracted Rolling Stone magazine story filed a lawsuit against the publication and the article’s author, according to court records.

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The three men, George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford and Ross Fowler, recently filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York. They are also suing Rolling Stone’s publisher, Wenner Media.

The lawsuit alleges that the three said the article “created a simple and direct way to match the alleged attackers” from the alleged gang rape to them based on details provided in the story.

“Upon release of the article, family friends, acquaintances, coworkers and reporters easily matched (Elias) as one of the alleged attackers and, among other things, interrogated him, humiliated him, and scolded him,” the lawsuit claims, noting that Hadford and Fowler “suffered similar attacks.”

In the lawsuit, the lawyer for the plaintiffs wrote that each of their identities was listed online by anonymous users when the article first came out and each of their “names will forever be associated with the alleged gang rape.”

The men are suing on three counts, including defamation and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and are asking for at least $75,000 for each count.

The story evolved around a woman only identified as “Jackie” who claimed she was gang-raped in 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. Erdely failed to contact those named in the story, according to those involved.

The story began to unravel as other media uncovered the discrepancies in Elderly’s story and had easily contacted those who were listed anonymously, and whom Erdely had failed to contact.

Rolling Stone subsequently issued an apology as did Erdely.

The Charlottesville Police Department conducted an investigation and said it found no evidence to back the claims of “Jackie.”

A report published by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism earlier this year said Rolling Stone failed at virtually every step of the process, from the reporting by Erdely to an editing process that included high-ranking staffers.

The most recent defamation suit is the second resulting from the story.

UVA Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, who was depicted most harshly in Erdely’s story, has also filed a defamation lawsuit against the magazine and Erdely. Eramo is seeking $7.5 million in damages.

Image: Flickr/George Carpentier

About the Author :

Carol Thompson is a veteran investigative reporter residing in central New York. She spent 23 years with a local newspaper, The Valley News, before leaving for the Syracuse New Times, and now, VNN. Thompson has won dozens of first-place awards for investigative reporting and was the 2006 recipient of the Syracuse Press Club’s prestigious Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award. Thompson’s reporting has resulted in the arrest of public officials and has prompted policy changes. She uncovered two money laundering schemes that traveled the globe and resulted in the indictments of several developers.