Jury awards $3 million to former University of Virginia dean over Rolling Stone article

Rolling Stone magazine, publisher Wenner Media and contributing writer Sabrina Erdely will pay Nicole Eramo, a former associate dean at the University of Virginia, $3 million for disparaging her reputation in November 2014 after publishing a now retracted article about an alleged gang rape near the school's campus. Photo by 360b/Shutterstock

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Nov. 8 (UPI) — The former associate dean of students at the University of Virginia, named in an article by Rolling Stone as disregarding a rape allegation, is set to receive a $3 million payout because the poorly reported article damaged her reputation.

Nicole Eramo, a former dean at the University of Virginia, will be paid $3 million by Rolling Stone and the reporter who wrote the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, for defaming her in a story about an alleged gang rape on campus.

Jurors deliberated last Tuesday, taking until Friday to hold Rolling Stone and Erdely responsible for damage to her reputation as a result of their story.

Although Rolling Stone retracted the story and pulled it down from its website, Eramo cited the damage it did to her reputation — disregarding a student’s allegation of rape on campus to protect the university would do that — as well as being driven into a deep depression from the number of negative, hateful email messages she received from random senders.

“I’ve always known I’m not the person in the article — that’s why we’re here today. But it’s hard to get back to where I was,” Eramo said, later adding after the damages were announced that she is “certainly happy to put this behind me and move on to the next chapter of my life.”

The Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus,” was published in November 2014 and told the story of Jackie, a University of Virginia student, who described being brutally gang raped at a fraternity party near the university’s campus.

As criticism of the article mounted, the Columbia School of Journalism published a report railing on Rolling Stone for improperly verifying Jackie’s story. The Charlottesville police later reported they found no evidence to back up the story, leading to Rolling Stone printing a retraction and pulling it down from their website.

While the article disappeared, Eramo had been painted as playing a major role in the university’s ignoring the rape, including discouraging Jackie from reporting it. In the trial, testimony revealed Eramo had actually urged Jackie to go to police.

After the article was published, Eramo was demoted, losing her title as associate dean, and then received a cancer diagnosis, a double-barreled shot that weighed heavily on her life.

Before the $3 million payout was announced, Rolling Stone lawyer David Paxton suggested the magazine and Erdely had suffered as much as Eramo, pointing out that she has since been promoted and received raises — and even offered a half-hearted apology Eramo was not quick to buy.

“It took two years and all this to get an apology,” Eramo said. “And I still don’t believe it is a real apology. The regret I see is that they’re in the position they’re in today.”


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