Jury: Rolling Stone defamed college dean in rape story

This file photo taken on Dec 5, 2014 shows the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This file photo taken on Dec 5, 2014 shows the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US jury on Friday (Nov 4) found Rolling Stone magazine defamed a University of Virginia official in a discredited 2014 story about a purported gang rape on campus.

Court documents showed the federal court jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, ruled in favour for Nicole Eramo, an associate dean of students who, according to the report, had discouraged reporting of the alleged attack for fear it might tarnish the elite university's image.

The jury said both the magazine and reporter Sabrina Erdely were liable for defamation over the report.

Damages were to be assessed later in the lawsuit, which sought US$7.5 million (S$10.4 million).

Eramo's suit alleged that Rolling Stone acted recklessly and willfully disregarded facts in reporting the story.

Headlined "A Rape on Campus," the story triggered protests when it appeared in late 2014 with its explosive claims of a violent gang rape at a fraternity house, as recounted by the alleged victim, a student identified only as "Jackie."

But the story began to unravel within weeks, with "Jackie" refusing to discuss the alleged incident and investigators and police uncovering no evidence that it had ever taken place.

Rolling Stone retracted the story and apologised after a Columbia University investigation exposed "avoidable" failures in basic journalistic practices during its reporting and editing.

Former members of the fraternity have filed a separate lawsuit.