Rolling Stone Trial: UVA Jackie Invented Rumor Her Friend Had Syphilis

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Disgraced former Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Erdely admitted in the company’s defamation trial that she failed to speak to critical figures in her story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia (UVA), who could have exposed key source Jackie Coakley as a fantastic liar, according to reports.

She even revealed additional falsehoods by Coakley, such as an invented rumor that a friend of hers had contracted syphilis, reports The Daily Progress. Erdely was the author of the November 2014 article “A Rape on Campus,” which recounted Coakley’s claim that she was savagely gang-raped by seven men at a UVA fraternity during a party. The article sparked a massive wave of outrage, but was quickly retracted after Coakley’s account was exposed as a series of spectacular lies. Now, Rolling Stone is battling a $7.5 million lawsuit by UVA dean Nicole Eramo, who says the magazine defamed her by portraying her as callously indifferent to UVA students who claimed they were raped.

As part of the trial, Erdely was called to testify Thursday. Eramo’s attorney Libby Locke gave Eramo an intense grilling about the most severe mistakes she’d made in her reporting, according to The Daily Progress.

For instance, Erdely admitted that she failed to question any of Coakley’s three friends who allegedly ignored her gang rape because they were worried it would harm their social standing to report it. Even though she had the real name of one of the friends, Erdely didn’t even reach out to her, blaming the failure on simply forgetting to do so.

“It’s embarrassing to say,” Erdely said. “This is not an excuse, it’s an explanation.”

Instead, Erdely only reached out to the friend, Kathryn Hendley, after the article was retracted and she was doing an internal follow-up for Rolling Stone editors to explain her errors. When she reached Hendley, she was told Hendley no longer spoke to Coakley because Coakley created and spread a rumor that Hendley contracted syphilis, according to Buzzfeed.

That wasn’t the only strange syphilis-related revelation. Erdely testified that she was told by Coakley prior to the article’s publication that Coakley acquired syphilis from her gang rape.  Yet, Coakley never supplied any medical documents to back up the claim, and instead repeatedly concocted new excuses for why she couldn’t show them. Rather than take this as an indication Coakley was being less than honest with her, Erdely simply deleted the syphilis claim from the story.

At one point, the Progress reports, Erdely broke down into tears while defending her decision to rely on Coakley despite ample evidence of apparent mental instability.

“It was a mistake to rely on someone who was intent to deceive me,” she aid.

The trial is expected to conclude by the end of the month, with a jury verdict to follow after. Despite being at the center of the saga, Coakley herself is not expected to testify.

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