Defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone by fraternity members is dismissed

One lawsuit brought against Rolling Stone magazine for the publication of a story which claimed a gang-rape had taken place at UVA has been dismissed. Reuters reports:

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by three University of Virginia graduates who accused Rolling Stone magazine, its publisher Wenner Media and a journalist of defamation over a now-debunked article describing a gang rape.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan said details about the alleged attackers in the November 2014 article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely were “too vague and remote” to make readers believe that the plaintiffs George Elias IV, Ross Fowler and Stephen Hadford had a role in the alleged rape.

All three plaintiffs were members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity where the alleged gang-rape described in the article took place, though none of the men were named in the piece.

In the Rolling Stone story, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, “Jackie” (the pseudonym used in the article) was invited on a date by an upper-classman who brought her to a party at the frat house and then participated in a gang-rape during which she was smashed into a glass table.

Jackie’s story, though deemed credible enough to publish by Rolling Stone, began to fall apart shortly after it was published. The fraternity in question had not held a party that night. Reports in the Washington Post indicated the mysterious upperclassman, with the name “Haven Monahan,” who Jackie claimed had taken her on a date did not exist. Photos Jackie had shown friends of Haven turned out to be an old high school classmate who did not attend UVA.

Police who investigated the claim could not substantiate it any element of it. Rolling Stone pulled the piece once it became clear the graphic description of a gang-rape was false and almost certainly invented by “Jackie” as a way to gain attention from a male friend she was pursuing romantically.

An attorney for the three men say they are considering an appeal. Another $7.8 million defamation lawsuit brought against the magazine by U-Va. associate dean Nicole Eramo is still going forward.

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