CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Opening statements began Tuesday morning in the defamation trial against Rolling Stone over its now discredited story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia.
The jury of eight women and two men was seated Monday. Only seven, to be specified later, will deliberate; three will be alternates.
University administrator Nicole Eramo is suing the magazine for $7.85 million. Her attorney Tom Clare told the jury Tuesday that the magazine knew that Eramo encouraged the woman to report the alleged sexual assault to police, but didn’t include that in its story.
Eramo says the 2014 article portrayed her as the “chief villain.” The attorney says Jackie’s deposition testimony contradicts the magazine’s portrayal.
An attorney for Rolling Stone magazine says there is no evidence that the author of its now-discredited story purposely avoided talking to certain sources out of fear it would ruin her article.
Attorney Scott Sexton stressed during opening statements on Tuesday that Eramo must prove that the magazine acted with “actual malice.” That means it knew what it was writing about Eramo was false or at least should have known it wasn’t true.
Sexton says the article’s author, editor and fact checker had full faith in “Jackie,” the woman who claimed she had been raped. Sexton dismissed the idea that author Sabrina Erdely didn’t talk to the alleged assailant or friends of Jackie because she feared the woman’s story would fall apart.
The November 2014 article told the harrowing story of a student identified only as “Jackie,” who claimed she was raped by seven men in a fraternity initiation. A police investigation found no evidence to back up Jackie’s claims and details in the narrative didn’t hold up under scrutiny.
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