Rolling Stone Trial: Author of Retracted Article Continues Testimony

Posted: Updated: Oct 20, 2016 09:03 PM
Sabrina Rubin Erdely entering court in Charlottesville Sabrina Rubin Erdely entering court in Charlottesville

The author behind a now-retracted Rolling Stone article continued her testimony in a multimillion dollar defamation case.

Sabrina Rubin Erdely was back on the witness stand at 8:20 a.m. Thursday, October 20, and was there all day.

Erdely’s article, "A Rape on Campus," was published in Rolling Stone’s November 2014 issue. In the article, a University of Virginia student referred to as "Jackie" described being gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September of 2012. An investigation by Charlottesville police in 2015 found no evidence to back up the claims made in the article. Rolling Stone eventually retracted the article and apologized.

Nicole Eramo, then the associate dean of students at UVA, claims Erdely’s article unfairly portrayed her as indifferent to Jackie's plight and only interested in protecting the university's reputation. Eramo is seeking around $7.5 million in damages.

Thursday morning, plaintiff’s attorney Libby Locke pointed out to the jury discrepancies between Erdely's notes and what actually made it into the published article.

According to the author’s notes, Jackie’s "why didn't you have fun with it" comment to Erdely came during a get together she had with the One Less group at UVA. However, in a later interview, Jackie says the comment came from an, "old best friend".

Locke also pointed out several positive comments about Eramo that were left out of the article. One from Emily Renda – who testified on Wednesday - saying, "our associate dean [Eramo] is very passionate about getting them punished."

At another point, Renda told Erdely that Eramo is "my favorite human being on the planet."

Locke wants to convince the jury that Erdely and Rolling Stone purposely left out these comments in order to damage Eramo.

Eramo’s attorney then asked about Erdely’s interview with Jackie's roommate, Rachel Soltis, who told the author the rape happened Jackie's second year and that it was "by I think six guys." Soltis’ story also changed from oral to vaginal sex.

The author explained that victims of sexual traumas sometimes change some details when recounting the event. Erdely says this why she didn’t dispute Jackie’s claim when details of her rape.

Erdely told the court that praise for Eramo is reflected in the article. The author also says "indifference" was not a theme for the article going into it.

Additionally, Locke showed text messages between Jackie’s friend Alexandria Pinkleton and Erdely. Pinkleton indicates that Jackie was having second thoughts about going through with the article about 3 weeks before it was to be published. Erdely texts back to the friend, "I need to be clear. There's no pulling the plug at this point."

Locke brought up Erdely's $300,000 contract with Rolling Stone, which stipulated that she contribute three feature stories within the first year of the contract. “A Rape On Campus” was Erdely’s first, and she needed to turn in two more features by June 30, 2015. It appeared Locke was insinuating to the jury that Erdely felt pressure to fulfill that contract, and would not let Jackie kill the story.

Locke had attempted to also introduce YouTube video of Erdely’s interview at University of Pennsylvania discussing an article she wrote in college. Locke said Erdely was accused of plagiarism, but the author denies it. Judge Glen Conrad decided to not have that video shown to jurors at this time.

Eramo's attorney did ask Erdely if she thought the plaintiff's career has been damaged by her article. Erdely responded by saying she "stands by everything written about Eramo in the article not said by Jackie."

Defense attorney J. Scott Sexton began cross examining Erdely shortly after 5 p.m. He asked the author if she had any doubts about the article when it was published in Rolling Stone, to which she said, "never."

Erdely became visibly emotional when talking about the unraveling of Jackie's account of what happened, telling the court "I wish the article had just never happened."

Erdely is expected to be on the stand again Friday, October 21.

Editor's Note: This is a developing story, we are working to get more information and will bring you updates here on NBC29.com.

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