April 12, 2017 / 7:33 AM / 10 months ago

Rolling Stone, University of Virginia admin agree to end defamation case

(Reuters) - Rolling Stone magazine and the administrator at the University of Virginia have reached an agreement which ends a defamation case over the publication’s retracted story about an alleged gang rape at the school, court documents filed on Tuesday showed.

Rolling Stone has been appealing a $3 million defamation verdict a Virginia federal court jury awarded in November to university administrator Nicole Eramo after it found the magazine and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely had defamed her.

”We are delighted that this dispute is now behind us, as it allows Nicole to move on and focus on doing what she does best, which is supporting victims of sexual assault,” Libby Locke, one of her lawyers, said in a statement provided to the New York Times.

Court documents showed Eramo dropped the case on Tuesday, five months after the jury found that the magazine and author were liable for actual malice, a key element in libel law, in six statements in the November 2014 story “A Rape on Campus.”

The article played a key role in sparking a national debate about sexual assault on university campuses. While the article was discredited as depicting an assault that never occurred, campus sexual assault remains a major concern, with some reports estimating that one in five female students will be a victim during their college years.

The magazine has argued in court papers that there was no evidence that Erdely acted with actual malice in the story and that the jury erred in finding that the story had been republished.

The magazine’s story said that a female student identified only as “Jackie” was gang raped at a university fraternity. Rolling Stone retracted the story and a police investigation found no evidence to support Jackie’s claims.

Eramo accused the magazine of portraying her as the story’s villain and as being focused on hushing up sexual assault reports.

“Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Nicole Eramo have come to an amicable resolution. The terms are confidential,” a spokeswoman for Wenner Media, the parent company of Rolling Stone, told the Times.

(Corrects paragraph 4 to say the jury “found” the magazine and author “liable” for actual malice, instead of “ruled” they were “guilty” of actual malice.)

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Toby Chopra

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