A Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter announced Tuesday it plans to settle a lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine in a defamation case involving allegations – later debunked – that University of Virginia students participated in a gang rape. Fraternity spokesman Brian Ellis said it has agreed to settle the case for $1.65 million.
Since the 2014 article was released, numerous lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the fraternity and members of the University of Virginia.
In the piece, “A Rape on Campus”, Erdely relayed the story of Jackie Coakley, a Virginia woman who claimed she was brutally raped by a group of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members during a party in September 2012. The article drew widespread attention nearly instantly for its raw portrayal of fraternity culture run amok.
But by April of 2015, Rolling Stone was forced to completely retract the article.
The fraternity is donating a “significant portion of its settlement proceeds to organizations that provide sexual assault awareness education, prevention training and victim counseling services on college campuses”.
Rolling Stone representatives declined comment except to say the settlement had just been reached and has not yet been entered in court.
Rolling Stone earlier this year settled another defamation lawsuit filed by university administrator Nicole Eramo after a jury awarded her $3 million.
The chapter is forgoing a jury trial and dropping its original request for $25 million upon accepting the settlement.
A review by the Columbia Journalism School said Rolling Stone failed to adhere to basic principles of journalism.
In June 2016, a federal judge dismissed a separate defamation suit brought against Rolling Stone by three former Phi Kappa Psi members, saying the article had not identified the three specific men as among Jackie’s alleged rapists.
Soon after the story was first published, reporting from other media outlets raised doubts about the story of the alleged victim, “Jackie”, and caused the article to unravel.