Three former members of a University of Virginia fraternity sued Rolling Stone magazine on Wednesday over a story accusing fraternity members of gang raping a woman, which turned out to be discredited. The lawsuit also names Rolling Stone publisher Wenner Media and the reporter Sabrina Erdely. The suit was filed on behalf of George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford and Ross Folwer. The men graduated in 2013, and were members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity mentioned in the Rolling Stone article. The men claim they suffered “emotional turmoil” and were unable to focus at work or school after the story appeared.
The 2014 article detailed an alleged 2012 gang rape on campus that a freshman experienced at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The article ignited a national discussion with its vivid detail of a student’s assault but it was retracted in April after it fell apart when journalists and law enforcement began to scrutinize the story. After Phi Kappa Psi announced its planned lawsuit, David Ardia, a professor at the University of North Carolina law school and co-director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, told Business Insider that a plaintiff could have a strong case against the magazine because of an investigative report into Rolling Stone’s questionable reporting and editorial decisions conducted by Columbia Journalism School.
The fraternity itself hasn’t filed a lawsuit, but it said in April that it “plans to pursue all available legal action against the magazine.” The lawsuit was the second to be filed against Rolling Stone because of the story. Nicole Eramo, a UVA associate dean of students, sued the magazine and Erdely for $7.5 million, claiming the story depicted Eramo as a callous bureaucrat during the aftermath Jackie’s supposed assault.
Stephen Hadford lived in the room where the alleged rape took place. “Upon release of the article, family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers and reporters easily matched Plaintiff as one of the alleged attackers and, among other things, interrogated him, humiliated him, and scolded him,” Reuters quotes the lawsuit as saying. Rolling Stone apologized in December for “discrepancies” in the account, after the story sparked a national debate over sexual violence on college campuses.
Rolling Stone executives have remained silent on the latest lawsuit filed against them. The Charlottesville Police Department has said it found no evidence to back the claims of the woman identified in the story only as “Jackie,” who said she was raped in 2012 by seven men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The article roiled the U.Va. community, sparking protests at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house and a wrenching period of soul-searching by the university. For the three former students, the article made them unable to focus on school and work, and embarrassed them about their association with the fraternity.