Rolling Stone le­gal bat­tle lurches on

Set­tle­ment doesn’t end mag­a­zine’s trou­bles

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY ALANNA DURKIN RICHER

RICH­MOND | Rolling Stone mag­a­zine set­tled a Univer­sity of Vir­ginia ad­min­is­tra­tor’s law­suit over its dis­cred­ited story about a rape on cam­pus, but its le­gal or­deal over the botched ar­ti­cle aren’t over.

At­tor­neys for Rolling Stone and Ni­cole Eramo an­nounced this week that they reached a con­fi­den­tial set­tle­ment over the 2014 story “A Rape on Cam­pus,” putting an end to the lengthy case stem­ming from the now-de­bunked claims of a woman iden­ti­fied only as “Jackie.”

“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, an at­tor­ney for Ms. Eramo, said in a state­ment.

Rolling Stone called it an “am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion.” But the mag­a­zine still faces a more than $25 mil­lion law­suit filed by the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia chap­ter of the fra­ter­nity where Jackie claimed she had been raped, which is sched­uled to go to trial in Oc­to­ber. A sep­a­rate law­suit from three for­mer fra­ter­nity mem­bers was dis­missed last year.

The set­tle­ment in Ms. Eramo’s case came af­ter Rolling Stone chal­lenged a jury’s Novem­ber ver­dict award­ing the for­mer as­so­ciate dean of stu­dents $3 mil­lion. Rolling Stone asked the judge in De­cem­ber to over­turn the jury’s de­ci­sion, ar­gu­ing that there is no ev­i­dence re­porter Sab­rina Ru­bin Erdely acted with ac­tual mal­ice.

Me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing The As­so­ci­ated Press, also urged the judge to over­rule the jury’s find­ing that Rolling Stone “re­pub­lished” the false claims when it at­tached an editor’s note high­light­ing prob­lems with the story to an on­line ver­sion. Ju­rors said the mag­a­zine and its publisher didn’t act with ac­tual mal­ice when the story was orig­i­nally pub­lished but did when it was “re­pub­lished.”

The me­dia groups said pu­n­ish­ing Rolling Stone for try­ing to alert the pub­lic to prob­lems with the story could dis­cour­age or­ga­ni­za­tions from cor­rect­ing er­rors.

Rolling Stone and Ms. Eramo set­tled be­fore the judge could rule on the is­sue, so the jury’s ver­dict stands and won’t be ex­am­ined by an ap­peals court.

“That’s the trou­bling thing about the set­tle­ment, is that it doesn’t give an ap­pel­late court a chance to wipe out that prece­dent,” said Ge­orge Free­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Me­dia Law Re­source Cen­ter and a for­mer at­tor­ney for The New York Times.

Mr. Free­man said Ms. Eramo’s case shows Rolling Stone has “a propen­sity to set­tle,” but he said it’s hard to pre­dict how the mag­a­zine’s at­tor­neys will pro­ceed in the other mat­ter.

In doc­u­ments re­cently filed in that case, Rolling Stone sug­gested that the fra­ter­nity is par­tially at fault for the ar­ti­cle be­cause, it claims, the fra­ter­nity was aware of prob­lems with Jackie’s ac­count and didn’t say any­thing be­fore the story went to print.

“For had they done so, the ar­ti­cle never would have been pub­lished,” Rolling Stone’s at­tor­neys said.

At­tor­neys for the fra­ter­nity did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to mes­sages. The case is sched­uled for a 10-day jury trial start­ing Oc­to­ber 23.

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