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Updated: Judge Hears Motions in Rolling Stone Defamation Case

Posted: Updated:
Richard H. Poff United States Courthouse and Federal Building in Roanoke Richard H. Poff United States Courthouse and Federal Building in Roanoke
Libby Locke Libby Locke
ROANOKE, Va. (WVIR) -

A federal judge is considering motions filed by Rolling Stone’s legal team as the magazine attempts to get the courts to overturn a jury’s verdict.

Jurors found in November that the magazine, its publisher Wenner Media, and article author Sabrina Rubin Erdely defamed University of Virginia administrator Nicole Eramo's in its story "A Rape on Campus."

The plaintiff’s legal team had argued to the jury that Erdely's article unfairly portrayed Eramo as a villain, indifferent to UVA student "Jackie's" allegation that she was gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012. The article was published in Rolling Stone’s November 2014 issue.

The Charlottesville Police Department announced in March 2015 that it found no evidence to back up the claims made in Erdely’s article.

Rolling Stone had republished the full article online in December 2014, including an editor’s note acknowledging a loss in confidence in Jackie. The magazine eventually retracted the whole piece in April 2015 and apologized.

The jury awarded Eramo a total of $3 million. A third of that monetary amount is due to what jurors saw as malice when the magazine put Erdely’s entire article back up online despite the lack of confidence in Jackie’s claim.

Rolling Stone’s attorneys entered a federal court in Roanoke Thursday, February 9, to try to convince Judge Glen E. Conrad to throw out the jury’s decision.

They are arguing that Erdely did not act with malice, and that the magazine was unfairly penalized for $1 million when it republished “A Rape on Campus.” Attorneys are asking Judge Conrad to reduce the amount of that penalty.

Rolling Stone's attorneys say the editor’s note was the magazine’s attempt to alert readers of its mistakes in the article. It claims the jury’s ruling represents a dangerous precedent for journalists everywhere.

Eramo’s legal team believes Rolling Stone used the editor's note to further promote Erdely’s article despite knowing it contained potential falsehoods.

They also argued the magazine's latest legal tactics prove attorneys tried to deceive jurors.

"You know I think it's unfortunate that Rolling Stone is asking the court to throw out the jury's verdict on the damages stage of the trial. Rolling Stone stood up and told the jury they understood and they respected the jury's decision. They lied to the jury, because they are now asking the court to throw it out," said Libby Locke, an attorney for Eramo.

The two sides also argued over how much the trial in Charlottesville cost to put on: Rolling Stone believes the cost should be $65,000, while Eramo’s team claims it is more than $144,000.

Judge Conrad is going to consider all the arguments and announce his decision sometime in the next few weeks.

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