- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Three former University of Virginia fraternity brothers sued Rolling Stone magazine, along with its publisher and a reporter, on Wednesday over the discredited 2014 article falsely describing a fraternity gang rape.

The lawsuit by the three men of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, all of whom graduated in 2013, also names publisher Wenner Media and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

The suit was filed in federal court in New York by George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford and Ross Fowler.

The article, “A Rape on Campus,” told a lurid and vicious tale of an unnamed woman named “Jackie,” being led into a darkened room from a party, thrown through a glass table and raped over three hours by several brothers as part of a fraternity initiation.

The magazine repudiated the article after many of the details proved false or unverifiable and journalism-watchdog groups criticized it as sloppy and said basic canons of journalistic care were not observed. Charlottesville police said they could find no evidence any crime had ever been committed.

The three men are seeking damages for defamation and infliction of emotional distress.

Also on Wednesday, one of the senior editors at Rolling Stone will leave the magazine after 19 years. According to the New York Times, managing editor Will Dana, whose last day is barely more than a week from now (Aug. 7), is not leaving for another position nor does the magazine have a new managing editor lined up. When asked whether the departure was related to the repudiated article, a spokeswoman told the Times only that “many factors” were involved.

The Rolling Stone article named neither the three men suing nor any other Phi Psi brothers, but the lawsuit claims, according to the Daily Mail, that  “vivid details” in the article made them identifiable, causing “emotional turmoil” that left them “unable to focus at work and in school.”

George Elias IV lived in the fraternity house in the first room at the top of the first flight of stairs at the time the alleged crime took place … Based on the vivid details described in the Rolling Stone article, this room location was the most likely scene of the alleged crime,” the lawsuit says, according to the Daily Mail, which has seen the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit all three men were assumed to have been one of the “rapists” by others.

“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 suit says of Mr. Elias, and makes similar statements about Mr. Hadford and Mr. Fowler.

The fraternity also has been “vilified, vandalized and ultimately suspended on campus since Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Rolling Stone article went online,” the lawsuit claims.

Among other things, the University of Virginia tossed the fraternity off campus, banned all Greek activities for the balance of a semester and restricted parties and recruitment based on the national outcry caused by the false article.

Many of those measures were not reversed even after the article fell apart, in part because the university and feminist activists said the false article still led to important dialogue and consciousness-raising.

The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $75,000, according to the Daily Mail.

Rolling Stone, Wenner and Ms. Erdely also are being sued over the piece by Nicole Eramo, a U.Va. associate dean of students who said the article painted her as the “chief villain” in Jackie’s case, making her seem like a callous and indifferent bureaucrat. Ms. Eramo is seeking $7.5 million in her lawsuit.

Phi Kappa Psi said immediately after the article was repudiated that it would itself sue Rolling Stone as its own corporate entity, but it has not filed an actual case.

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