The defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine over its now-retracted story about a gang-rape at the University of Virginia will go to trial.

Judge Glen E. Conrad ruled Thursday that U.Va. dean Nicole Eramo – who brought the lawsuit against the magazine – is a limited-purpose public figure, meaning she will have to show the magazine knew their claims about her were false and acted with reckless disregard.

Eramo claimed she was portrayed as callous and indifferent to women who made accusations of sexual assault, even though her job was to support them and investigate the claims. The magazine even photoshopped an image of Eramo to make her look sinister. Eramo was quoted in the story, by the woman who made the false accusation, as claiming “nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school.” Eramo claims she said no such thing.

Judge Conrad found there was enough evidence for a jury trial that the magazine likely knew the accuser, named in the original article and lawsuit as “Jackie,” made false accusations.

“First, plaintiff offers evidence that could lead a jury to determine that [Rolling Stone author Sabrina Rubin] Erdely had a preconceived story line and may have consciously disregarded contradictory evidence,” Conrad ruled.

He added: “Second, plaintiff has produced evidence supporting the inference that Erdely should have further investigated Jackie’s allegations. The record suggests that Erdely knew the identity of at least one of the individuals who found Jackie the night of her alleged rape. Erdely, however, did not seek to contact this individual.”

Additionally, Conrad wrote, Jackie never provided the names of her assailants – and Erdely didn’t make a real attempt to find them on her own – meaning Erdely was “unable to test the reliability of Jackie’s story with them.” Rolling Stone knew this, but ran the story anyway.

“Third, plaintiff has presented evidence suggesting that Erdely had reasons to doubt Jackie’s credibility,” Conrad wrote. Erdely had been told that the alleged rape happened months before fraternity events actually took place. She had also made a note that it was “too much of coincidence” that three women had been gang-raped at the same fraternity, as Jackie claimed. Also, Jackie’s story had changed over time, but Erdely didn’t press her on the inconsistencies.

Rolling Stone fact checkers knew this as well, but didn’t press the issue.

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As for how this relates to Eramo specifically, Erdely had been told by multiple individuals that her caricature of the popular dean was inaccurate, but she stuck by it. Conrad mentions deposition testimony that shows Erdely may have had a vendetta against Eramo and was determined to make U.Va. administrators look bad.

It’s up to a jury now to determine whether Eramo was the victim of defamation.

Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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