(Recasts with jury selected)
By Gary Robertson
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. Oct 17 A jury of eight
women and two men was chosen on Monday to hear a $7.9 million
defamation lawsuit brought by a former University of Virginia
official against Rolling Stone magazine over a debunked story
that recounted an alleged gang rape on campus.
Nicole Eramo, a former associate dean of students at the
school, filed the lawsuit seeking damages, contending that the
2014 article cast her as the "chief villain of the story," which
claimed that a freshman had been held down and raped by seven
men during a fraternity party two years earlier.
The article, headlined "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault
and Struggle for Justice at UVA," set off a firestorm of
protests and debate about sexual assaults on college campuses,
and triggered a national movement to curb them.
Police in Charlottesville launched an intensive
investigation into the case, but found no evidence that the
crimes described in the story had ever occurred.
Rolling Stone retracted the article in April 2015.
While the incident depicted in the story never occurred,
sexual assaults remain a major concern on U.S. college campuses,
with some reports estimating that one in five female students
will be victims of sexual assault during their college years.
The former student at the center of the allegations - known
to the public only as "Jackie" - will testify via a video
deposition, attorneys said.
In her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in
Charlottesville, Eramo claimed that Rolling Stone falsely
portrayed her as callous and indifferent to the allegations of
Lawyers for Rolling Stone have argued that Eramo's attorneys
must prove that reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and the magazine's
editors acted with "actual malice" - meaning reckless disregard
for the truth - when they published the claims against Eramo.
In pre-trial hearings, U.S. District Court Judge Glen E.
Conrad ruled that Eramo could be considered a "limited purpose
public figure," meaning she has to prove that Rolling Stone
published the story with actual malice.
Rolling Stone lawyers have said that up until the magazine's
publication of an editor's note about the story's
inconsistencies, it had full confidence in Jackie and the story.
Rolling Stone commissioned a review by Columbia University
that criticized the publication for reporting and editing
Eramo is still employed at the University of Virginia but
has said she works largely in an administrative role in the
office of the vice president for student affairs.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Mary Milliken)