UVa dean sues Rolling Stone over debunked gang rape story

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UVA Dean Files $8M Defamation Lawsuit Against Rolling Stone

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A University of Virginia associate dean sued Rolling Stone magazine on Tuesday for more than $7.5 million, saying a debunked and retracted account of an alleged gang rape on campus cast her as the "chief villain."

Nicole Eramo, the top administrator dealing with sexual assaults at the Charlottesville school, said the lengthy and graphic magazine piece about a student rape victim identified only as "Jackie" portrayed her as more concerned about protecting the elite university's reputation than helping victims of sexual assault.

"I am filing this defamation lawsuit to set the record straight - and to hold the magazine and the author of the article accountable for their actions in a way they have refused to do themselves," Eramo said in a statement.

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

The criticism came two weeks after the Charlottesville police department said it had found no evidence to back the claims of Jackie, who said she was raped by seven men at a fraternity house in September 2012.

No one at Rolling Stone was fired or disciplined as a result of the article, titled "A Rape on Campus." Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana posted an apology on the publication's website, and Erdely also apologized in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court. It also accuses Erdely and Wenner Media of making false and defamatory statements.

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UVa dean sues Rolling Stone over debunked gang rape story
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A student walks into Peabody Hall the undergraduate admissions building at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. The door of the building is littered with notes relating to the recent gang rape allegations. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A University of Virginia student looks over postings on the door of Peabody Hall related to the Phi Kappa Psi gang rape allegations at the school in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. The university has suspended activities at all campus fraternal organizations amid an investigation into a published report in which a student described being sexually assaulted by seven men in 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi house. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A few postings on the door of Peabody Hall related to the Phi Kappa Psi gang rape allegations at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. The university has suspended activities at all campus fraternal organizations amid an investigation into a published report in which a student described being sexually assaulted by seven men in 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi house. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Lyra Bartell, right, of Richmond, Va. hugs her friend, Irene Burgoa, grey top, in front of the undergraduate admissions building at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. the door of the building is littered with notes relating to the recent gang rape allegations. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Jalen Ross, president of the University of Virginia student council, ponders a question during a news conference at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Ross called the Rolling Stone article on a fraternity house gang rape a "wake-up call"€ for the university. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Tommy Reid, at podium, the president of the University of Virginia’s Inter-Fraternity Council says that a female student’s account of being sexually assaulted by seven men at a fraternity made him “sick to my stomach.” during a news conference at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan speaks to the the board of visitors during a meeting at the rotunda at the school Tuesday, June 26, 2012 in Charlottesville, Va. Sullivan issued a statement Tuesday evening requesting a police investigation into allegations of sexual assault at a fraternity at the school. 
In this image taken from video, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, University of Virginia student Alex Stock talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Charlottsville, Va. Stock, and two other friends of an alleged victim of a gang rape at a U.Va. fraternity, challenged details in a Rolling Stone article that used the woman's attack to paint a picture of a culture of sexual violence on the campus was wrong on a number of key points: most important that they didn't encourage her to report the attack and that they were more concerned about their reputations than her well-being. (AP Photo)
In this image taken from video, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, University of Virginia student Ryan Duffin talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Charlottsville, Va. Duffin and two other friends of an alleged victim of a gang rape at a U.Va. fraternity, challenged details in a Rolling Stone article that used the woman's attack to paint a picture of a culture of sexual violence on the campus was wrong on a number of key points: most important that they didn't encourage her to report the attack and that they were more concerned about their reputations than her well-being. (AP Photo)
Tommy Reid, right, the president of the University of Virginia’s Inter-Fraternity Council says that a female student’s account of being sexually assaulted by seven men at a fraternity made him “sick to my stomach.” during a news conference at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. The University of Virginia on Saturday suspended activities at all campus fraternal organizations on Saturday in response to the accounts of sexual assault in Rolling Stone. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Images captured by WTVR show the vandalized Phi Kappa Psi house in the wake of a bombshell Rolling Stone report including claims men in the fraternity sexually assaulted a student. 
Students Exercising on Campus by Fraternity Houses at University of Virginia in Charlottesville USA. Phi Kappa Psi, the University of Virginia fraternity where a student interviewed by Rolling Stone claims she was raped by seven men, can be seen on the left. 
Students at the University of Virginia in University of Virginia socialize in afternoon sun outside a fraternity house on campus
University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan (center) smiles for a picture with graduating students Brittany Smith (left) and Elizabeth Grizzle after the Valedictory Exercises at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va. on May 18, 2013. 
A view of the Rotunda one of the best known structures on the campus of the University of Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA-JUNE 24, 2012-CAPTION: Over 1,500 students, professors and local citizens turned out forÊ'Rally for Honor' on theÊLawn on the campus of the University of Virginia, two days before the school's board reconsiders its decision. During the two-hour rally, faculty membersÊcalled for the UVA Board of Visitors to reinstateÊousted president Teresa Sullivan.ÊOn Friday Gov. Bob McDonnell threatened to replace the entire board if it fails to resolve the matter. (Photo by Jay Paul for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA
University of Virginia students walk to campus past the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. The university has suspended activities at all campus fraternal organizations amid an investigation into a published report in which a student described being sexually assaulted by seven men in 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi house. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article last week alleged a gang rape at the house which has since suspended operations. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo speaks during a news conference Monday, March 23, 2015, in Charlottesville, Va. A five-month police investigation into an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia that Rolling Stone magazine described in graphic detail produced no evidence of the attack and was stymied by the accuser's unwillingness to cooperate, authorities said Monday. (AP Photo/Melody Robbins)
A window is boarded up at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article alleged a gang rape at the house which has since suspended operations. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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Rolling Stone declined comment through a spokeswoman.

The fraternity where the alleged rape was said to have occurred, Phi Kappa Psi, has also signaled it plans to sue Rolling Stone.

Eramo's lawsuit said the Rolling Stone piece stated that Eramo "intentionally tried to coddle Jackie" to persuade her to be silent about the assault.

"To personify the University's alleged institutional indifference to rape, Erdely and Rolling Stone cast Dean Eramo, who met with and counseled Jackie, as the chief villain of the story," the lawsuit states.

In a statement Tuesday, U.Va. said the Rolling Stone piece "damaged the reputation of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia."

The article roiled the U.Va. community, sparking protests at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house and a wrenching period of soul-searching by the university. For Eramo, the article "had a devastating effect" with critics calling her a "wretched rape apologist" and "evil" in a wave of public correspondence following the publication of the article, the lawsuit said.

"As a woman who has dedicated her life to assisting victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, Dean Eramo saw herself tarred in the national press as the chief architect of a conspiracy to suppress Jackie's assault in order to protect U.Va.'s reputation," according to the lawsuit.

Rolling Stone had asked for the independent review after numerous news outlets found flaws with the story about Jackie, who said the attack happened during a social event at the fraternity house more than two years earlier.

Despite its flaws, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults amid a campaign by President Barack Obama. The University of Virginia had already been on the Department of Education's list of 55 colleges under investigation for their handling of sex assault violations.

The article also prompted President Teresa Sullivan to temporarily suspend Greek social events. Fraternities later agreed to ban kegs, hire security workers and keep at least three fraternity members sober at each event.

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