Attorneys make final pitch to jurors in Rolling Stone trial

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Making their final pitches to jurors, attorneys in the defamation trial against Rolling Stone magazine sparred in court Tuesday over whether the writer of a botched article about a brutal gang rape at the University of Virginia was the victim of an elaborate ruse or an agenda-driven reporter with little regard for the facts.

After hearing more than two weeks’ worth of evidence, jurors are expected to begin deliberating Wednesday to decide whether Rolling Stone and author Sabrina Rubin Erdely defamed university administrator Nicole Eramo, who is seeking $7.5 million from the magazine over what she says was her portrayal as the “chief villain” in the 2014 story about the alleged sexual assault of the woman identified only as “Jackie.”

An attorney for Eramo argued that Erdely set out from the beginning to tell a story of “institutional indifference,” brushed off statements from her sources that didn’t fit that preconceived narrative and pushed her own views about the administration onto the vulnerable women she was interviewing. Eramo claims she was unfairly portrayed in the article as trying to sweep Jackie’s sexual assault under the rug to protect the university.

“Once they decided what the article was going to be about, it didn’t matter what the facts were,” attorney Tom Clare said.

The story about Jackie’s rape set off a firestorm at the University of Virginia and in schools nationwide and prompted police to launch an investigation into the alleged assault. Eramo received hundreds of angry letters and emails and faced protesters outside her office. The story crumbled after other news outlets began asking questions and police found no evidence to back up Jackie’s claims. The article was officially retracted in April 2015.

There are only three statements in the article about Eramo in question, including one in which she is quoted — through Jackie — as saying that the university doesn’t publish all of its statistics about sexual assault because “nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school.”