July 30, 2015 / 3:56 AM / 5 years ago

University of Virginia graduates sue Rolling Stone over rape story

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three University of Virginia graduates on Wednesday filed a defamation lawsuit in New York against Rolling Stone magazine, its publisher, Wenner Media, and a journalist, over a now-debunked 2014 article describing a fraternity gang rape.

The three men, all 2013 graduates and members of Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity at the center of the story, claim the magazine was negligent in publishing the article, “A Rape on Campus”, by Sabrina Rudin Erdely. They are seeking damages for defamation and infliction of emotional distress.

Rolling Stone apologized in December for “discrepancies” in the account after the story sparked a national debate over sexual violence on college campuses.

The magazine’s managing editor, Will Dana, who helped edit the original story, has resigned and will leave Rolling Stone in August, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A review by the Columbia University journalism school, commissioned by Rolling Stone and released in April, cited the magazine for reporting and editing lapses.

One of the graduates who filed the lawsuit, George Elias IV, said he lived in the room where the alleged crime took place.

“Upon release of the article, family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers and reporters easily matched Plaintiff as one of the alleged attackers and, among other things, interrogated him, humiliated him, and scolded him,” the lawsuit says.

The two other graduates, Stephen Hadford and Ross Fowler, said they suffered similar attacks after their names and hometowns were listed in online blogs by anonymous users.

“Plaintiffs have each suffered emotional turmoil, were entirely unable to focus at work and in school following release of the article and are still being questioned often about the article’s accusations,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit follows a $7.85-million libel suit filed against the same three parties by Nicole Eramo, UVA’s associate dean of students and top administrator in dealing with sexual assaults. Eramo said she was defamed in the article, which falsely claimed she tried to persuade Jackie not to report the rape.

A Charlottesville police investigation found no evidence that Jackie had been gang-raped.

Elizabeth McNamara, an attorney with New York’s Davis Wright Tremaine LLP representing Rolling Stone, did not respond to a request for comment.

The magazine has said it would commit itself to recommendations made in the Columbia review. Erdely has apologized.

Rolling Stone is owned by Jann Wenner, who founded it in 1967 as a counterculture-oriented magazine.

Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Andrew Hay and Clarence Fernandez

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