When Rolling Stone published a now-retracted article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, the magazine and author of the story made it seem like a school dean wasn't really interested in sending the accuser to police.
In the original article, Rolling Stone author Sabrina Rubin Erdely editorialized about how U.Va. Dean Nicole Eramo assisted "Jackie," the woman who claimed she was gang-raped as part of a fraternity initiation.
"When Jackie finished talking, Eramo comforted her, then calmly laid out her options. If Jackie wished, she could file a criminal complaint with police. Or, if Jackie preferred to keep the matter within the university, she had two choices. She could file a complaint with the school's Sexual Misconduct Board, to be decided in a 'formal resolution' with a jury of students and faculty, and a dean as judge.
"Or Jackie could choose an 'informal resolution,' in which Jackie could simply face her attackers in Eramo's presence and tell them how she felt; Eramo could then issue a directive to the men, such as suggesting counseling. Eramo presented each option to Jackie neutrally, giving each equal weight. She assured Jackie there was no pressure — whatever happened next was entirely her choice."
In this version, Erdely makes it seem as though Eramo merely suggested Jackie could go to police, not that she should.
Eramo is suing Rolling Stone for the way the magazine portrayed her in the article. After nearly two years in the court system, the trial over the lawsuit began this week.
Lawyers for Eramo said in their opening statements that Rolling Stone had proof the U.Va. dean urged Jackie to go to the police, but that was edited out in the final article.
Buzzfeed's Tyler Kingkade is reporting from the trial, and wrote that Eramo's lawyers showed a forwarded email from Jackie to the Rolling Stone author "showing that the dean had set up two meetings with police so Jackie could report the alleged rape to authorities." Eramo's lawyers said reference to this email appeared in an earlier draft of the article but not the final piece.
"Eramo's lawyer Tom Clare said that in May 2013, the dean told Jackie that her alleged assault was 'too serious' for informal resolution by the university and that she could pursue a school disciplinary proceeding or go to the police," Kingkade wrote. "In an email Eramo sent to Jackie at that time, which was shown to jurors, she said, 'I do want you to continue to consider these options.'"
But lawyers for Rolling Stone argued that Eramo only set up two meetings between Jackie and police after Jackie came back to her to report that members of the same fraternity had thrown a bottle that hit her in the face.
"We did know there was a meeting with police," said Rolling Stone lawyer Scott Sexton in his opening statement, according to Kingkade. Sexton added that the "meeting was about the bottle incident."
It seems like an interesting first day to a trial that may shed more light on just how badly Rolling Stone and Erdely bungled this article.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.