The author of the Rolling Stone article depicting a grisly but discredited tale of gang rape at the University of Virginia defended her reporting efforts for a second day at the trial of a defamation lawsuit filed by a former dean.
Author Sabrina Rubin Erdely denied she planned from the start to write an attack piece about institutional indifference regarding rape cases at prestigious universities. Lawyers for Nicole Eramo pressed Erdely for details on how she reported the article, A Rape on Campus:A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA, published in November 2014.
"Jackie," the women whose horrifying account was the foundation of the article, is not expected to testify in person. Her recorded deposition will be provided to the jury.
Jackie was a freshman in 2012 when she says she was lured into a bedroom at a UVA fraternity and raped and beaten for three hours. Eramo, then an associate dean of students, played a central role in the story as the administrator who dealt with sexual assault claims and counseled Jackie.
Eramo is suing Rolling Stone for more than $7 million, claiming the article painted her as a "villain."
Eramo claims she was depicted as an administrator more interested in protecting the university than in serving the needs of assault victims. Her lawyer, Libby Locke, pressed Erdely in court Thursday on why several positive comments about Eramo were left out of the story, WVIR-TV reported. Erdely testified parts of the story did cast a positive light on Eramo.
Erdely admits she did not interview Jackie's alleged attackers — nor her friends — to corroborate details about the hours after the attack. Erdely also testified Jackie altered details of her story during the reporting process, but Erdely said she dismissed it as confusion common for trauma victims.
Eramo testified Tuesday and Wednesday, claiming the article depicted her as indifferent to rape claims. She says she continues to work for the university but misses the interaction she had with students in her old job.
She also said the apologies issued by Rolling Stone, which retracted the story in April 2015, seemed hollow given the magazine stood by Erdely's characterization of her.
Lawyers for the magazine pointed out that Eramo still works for the university and has received pay raises since the article was published.
The story ignited a national conversation about sexual assault on the nation's campuses. At UVA, the national fraternity suspended its chapter at the university, and the university suspended all fraternity activity at the school for two months.
Upon closer inspection, however, Jackie's tale unraveled. A police investigation found no credible evidence of a crime, and an independent investigation by the Columbia School of Journalism found journalistic failure that "encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking."