The University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter has reached a $1.65 million settlement in its lawsuit against Rolling Stone, closing the third defamation case brought against the magazine.
A November 2014 article, “A Rape on Campus,” reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely told the story of “Jackie,” a young woman who said she was gang-raped by seven fraternity brothers.
But after the 9,000-word story ran, numerous discrepancies arose, calling the entire account into question. Rolling Stone retracted the story in 2015, with Erdely also apologizing.
“It has been nearly three years since we and the entire University of Virginia community were shocked by the now infamous article, and we are pleased to be able to close the book on that trying ordeal and its aftermath,” UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter said in a written statement.
The $1.65 million settlement will allow Phi Kappa Psi and Rolling Stone to avoid a jury trial. The fraternity said that a “significant portion” of the settlement money would go to sexual-assault prevention and victim-counseling services.
In June 2016, a federal judge dismissed a separate defamation suit brought against Rolling Stone by three former Phi Kappa Psi members, saying the article had not identified the three specific men as among Jackie’s alleged rapists.
Last year, a federal court awarded UVA Dean Nicole Eramo $3 million after finding that Erdely had acted with “actual malice.” Rolling Stone appealed that decision, reaching its own private settlement with Eramo in April.
During earlier testimony, a UVA colleague told the court that Ederly had written “an almost comic demonization” of Eramo, using her “to personify the University’s alleged institutional indifference to rape.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.