Fraternity's lawsuit against Rolling Stone will move forward
The fraternity, the University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, was accused by the magazine in a now-retracted article of requiring new pledges to take part in a gang rape. A young woman, identified only as "Jackie," claimed she had been lured to a party at the Phi Psi house by one of its members, who then orchestrated a violent gang-rape against her atop a pile of broken glass.
But her story quickly fell apart once people began to question the logic of her story, and after Washington Post reporter T. Rees Shapiro discovered that Jackie made up the story in order to gain the affections of a man she had a crush on. It was discovered that no party took place at the fraternity house on the night of the alleged incident, and that pledging doesn't even take place until the spring.
Nearly a year after the story fell apart, Phi Psi filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone for defamation. On Thursday, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore ruled that the accusations against the fraternity made by Rolling Stone could be seen as defamatory, and will allow the lawsuit to continue.
This is good news for the fraternity. In June, a federal district court judge had dismissed a lawsuit from three individual fraternity members who claimed they were easily identifiable from information contained in the Rolling Stone article. The judge in that case oddly claimed as part of his reasoning to dismiss that the brothers' "defamation claims are directed toward a report about events that simply did not happen." Yes, that's exactly why they were suing and what defamation is. That judge also said the men weren't identifiable from the article because they weren't named or physically described.
Another big lawsuit against Rolling Stone is by U.Va. dean Nicole Eramo, who was named in the article and portrayed as callous and indifferent toward women who make accusations of sexual assault — even though her job is to help them. In mid-August, a judge said that her defamation case against the magazine would likely proceed to trial.