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Phi Kappa Psi files $25 million defamation suit against Rolling Stone

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Phi Kappa Psi fraternity  has filed a defamation suit seeking $25 million in compensation from Rolling Stone magazine, after an article was published which spotlighted the fraternity for rape allegations which were later determined to be false.

The suit has been brought by the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi against Rolling Stone and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the writer and Contributing Editor of an article entitled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” which was featured in the Nov. 19, 2014 issue.

The suit stated that the article, however, was proven to be a “false and a complete fabrication,” that described in graphic detail the horrifying ordeal of a UVa freshman woman identified as “Jackie.”

The suit alleges that in the aftermath of the article, Phi Kappa Psi and its members became the object of an avalanche of condemnation worldwide.

The story detailed that Jackie was brought to a Phi Kappa Psi date function held on Sept. 28, 2012, by a third-year UVa undergraduate and member of Phi Kappa Psi, identified as “Drew.”

Jackie was reported to have met Drew at the UVa Aquatic and Fitness Center, where they both worked.

During the Phi Kappa Psi party, Erderly wrote that Jackie was given alcoholic punch to drink, and then led upstairs into a dark bedroom by Drew. It was reported that as soon as she entered the bedroom, Jackie was tackled and sent backwards onto a low glass table, which shattered and caused shards of glass to dig into her back. She was allegedly punched, pinned to the table, a hand was clamped over her mouth, and her legs were pried apart. The article alleged that she was then ritually raped by seven Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members for three agonizing hours as part of a frat initiation rite.

The article then recounted how Jackie described her horrific experience to three friends, and later to officials within UVa and she painted the campus officials as “insensitive and unsupportive, acting as apologists for what the Article portrayed as UVA’s culture of rape,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit stated:

The infirmities in the Article were first exposed by other news organizations, such as The Washington Post, which noted fundamental flaws in Jackie’s account and raised the possibility that the entire story may have been concocted. Rolling Stone reacted to these reports by doubling down on its original Article, standing by its story, engaging in deception and cover-up, and issuing interviews and public statements that lied about its sourcing. Investigations by the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, the University of Virginia, and the Charlottesville Police Department, however, would reveal that the gang-rape never happened.

There was no Phi Kappa Psi date function on September 28, 2012. The ringleader of the alleged gang-rape, “Drew,” did not exist. No member of Phi Kappa Psi worked at the Aquatic Center with Jackie. Jackie was not gang-raped, or sexually 4 assaulted by anyone in any manner at Phi Kappa Psi, nor was she assaulted by any Phi Kappa Psi member at any other time or place.

The interactions Jackie described with her three friends on the night of the alleged event did not take place, and the quotations attributed to those friends were fabricated. The portrayal of insensitivity to Jackie’s allegations by UVA officials was false, and included fabricated statements by those officials.

Rolling Stone, caught in this colossal act of defamatory falsehood, commissioned the prestigious Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, led by the School’s Dean, Steve Coll, along with Sheila Coronel and Derek Kravitz, to investigate the episode. The Columbia Journalism School issued a devastating Report, severely criticizing Rolling Stone, its writer and editors for failing to corroborate Jackie’s story before publishing the Article. Thereafter, Rolling Stone retracted the Article, and admitted its falsehood.

“Rolling Stone and Erdely had an agenda, and they were recklessly oblivious to the harm they would cause innocent victims in their ruthless pursuit of that agenda,” stated the plaintiffs.

The suit also asks for $350,000 for punitive damages against each defendant, demands a trial by jury, and that the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs will be recoverable in an amount to be proved at trial.

The full suit can be read here.