'Rolling Stone' Asks Court To Dismiss U.Va. Grads' Suit Over Retracted Rape Story

Rolling Stone seeks to have a defamation lawsuit dismissed, in which three former fraternity members at the University of Virginia sued the magazine, its publisher Wenner Media and writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely regarding a retracted story about an alleged gang rape at the university’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday, Rolling Stone’s attorneys claimed that the lawsuit, filed in July, should be thrown out because the article -- titled “A Rape on Campus” and published November 2014 -- never referred to the three men by name or described them physically.

The magazine argued that readers would have been unable to link the fraternity members to the reported incident.

"No reasonable reader would understand from the article and the proffered extrinsic evidence that plaintiffs are identified as the perpetrators," the attorneys wrote.

The three university graduates — George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford and Ross Fowler — claim the article resulted in them being identified as the attackers in the alleged rape and damaged their reputations.

In their lawsuit, the graduates say that details of the story given by "Jackie" could lead a reader to narrow down the graduation years of those allegedly involved as well. Rolling Stone rejected this claim that they were defamed because they were members of the fraternity who graduated in 2013 or 2014.

The graduates' lawsuit is just one of three that Rolling Stone faces regarding the article, which raked in more than 2.7 million views before it was retracted.

University of Virginia Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo claims she was portrayed as the “chief villain” in the article and filed a $7.5 million lawsuit in May.

In November, the Phi Kappa Psi chapter of the University of Virginia sued Rolling Stone for $25 million, claiming it made the fraternity and its members "the object of an avalanche of condemnation worldwide.” Wenner Media has yet to comment on this most recent lawsuit.
    
Referring to the graduates' suit, Rolling Stone previously sent a letter to the judge about an anticipated motion to have it dismissed in November, as Publishers Dailyreported.

"The Article does not refer to Plaintiffs by name, nor does it describe them physically or provide biographical information about them,” states the letter from Rolling Stone. “The other perpetrators are described sketchily at best, and the minimal information provided belies any plausible conclusion that Plaintiffs were these individuals."

While the article brought the issue of sexual assault on campuses to national attention, investigations by the Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review and the Charlottesville police into Rolling Stone’s article all contradicted the magazine’s account.

Despite the controversy surrounding the magazine, no one has been fired over the story.

Although Will Dana, the managing editor of Rolling Stone, resigned this summer, the story's author, Erdely, will continue to write for the magazine.

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