CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A federal jury on Monday ordered Rolling Stone and one of its writers to pay $3 million in damages to a University of Virginia administrator over a discredited article two years ago about a supposed gang rape at the university.
The jury in Charlottesville, Va., had already decided on Friday, after a two-week trial, that Rolling Stone; Wenner Media, its parent company; and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article, were all liable for defamation in a case that centered on faulty reporting and a failure to apply basic fail-safes in editing.
After deliberating for less than two hours on Monday, the jury of eight women and two men decided that Ms. Erdely was liable for $2 million of the total, and Rolling Stone and Wenner Media for $1 million. In her suit, filed in May 2015, the administrator, Nicole P. Eramo, had asked for $7.5 million in damages.
The jury found that assertions made in the story, as well as public statements made after publication by Ms. Erdely and Rolling Stone, were made with “actual malice,” the legal standard for libel against public figures. . . .
Scott Sexton, a lawyer for Rolling Stone, said on Monday that according to its agreement with Ms. Erdely, the company was obligated to cover “all liability arising out of the article.” . . .
The article, “A Rape on Campus,” was published in November 2014 and intensified national attention on sexual assault of college students. But the article was soon called into question for its reliance on a single source, identified only as Jackie, in describing a brutal gang rape at a fraternity party . . .
Her name is Jackie Coakley, and the fact that the New York Times and other news organizations won’t name her, when her vicious lies led to this $3 million catastrophe for Rolling Stone, is remarkable. It cannot be stated often enough: Jackie Coakley lied about rape. She deliberately defamed the innocent members of a UVA fraternity. Jackie Coakley’s gang-rape hoax — a LIE, a FALSEHOOD, a complete FABRICATION — was cited in testimony before a 2014 U.S. Senate committee by her fellow UVA student Emily Renda (see “A Coven of Liars: Sabrina Rubin Erdley, Emily Renda and Catherine Lhamon,” April 9, 2015). While it is good that Erdely and Rolling Stone are being punished for reprinting Jackie Coakley’s lie, it is wrong — a continuation of the same pattern of journalistic malpractice — for other news organizations to be complicit in protecting the liar who originally perpetrated this evil hoax:
Rolling Stone fact-checker Elisabeth Garber-Paul testified that she, Erdely, and editor Sean Woods trusted Coakley so completely that they didn’t even bother trying to speak to several friends whom Coakley claimed were present the night she was raped.
Garber-Paul indicated that her trust in Coakley was rooted in the “great detail” of her story, and her apparent lack of any ulterior motive. Beyond that, though, Garber-Paul also suggested she just had a “sense” Coakley was being honest.
“I had a sense she was reliving the worst moment of her life,” she said, according to local WVIR-TV.
Unfortunately for Rolling Stone, that “sense” proved to be disastrously wrong. Had the magazine bothered to reach out to Coakley’s friends, it would have quickly learned that she was known for spinning fantastic lies.
In addition to Garber-Paul, [Oct. 25] trial proceedings also included a taped deposition by Kathryn Hendley, a former friend of Coakley who was called “Cindy” in Rolling Stone’s article. Despite knowing Hendley’s identity, Rolling Stone never attempted to contact her prior to the article’s publication . . .
In her deposition, Hendley disputed several quotes attributed to her in the article, and characterized Coakley as a serial liar who created stories out of whole cloth.
“Jackie had a tendency to fabricate things and it was shocking to see it in a large scale news magazine like this,” she said. She pointed to the example of Haven Monahan, a boy Coakley claimed to have met at a swimming pool she worked at. While Coakley produced photos of Monahan and shared his phone number with friends, Hendley eventually realized that he didn’t actually exist. Instead, Monahan appears to have been concocted by Coakley in a strange scheme to win the affections of Ryan Duffin, another UVA student.
In her deposition, Hendley said that she eventually stopped being friends with Coakley in 2013 because she was making up rumors and then spreading them. Earlier in the trial, it was revealed that one of those false rumors was that Hendley had contracted syphilis.
That’s from Blake Neff at Daily Caller, one of the few publications that has had the courage to publish Jackie Coakley’s full name. Why are other journalists still protecting that wicked lying monster?