November 7, 2016 / 3:58 PM / a year ago

Virginia jury weighs damages for Rolling Stone campus rape story

Nov 7 (Reuters) - A U.S. jury on Monday began weighing damages for a University of Virginia administrator the panel said was defamed by Rolling Stone magazine’s now-retracted story of a gang rape, a court spokeswoman said.

Lawyers for administrator Nicole Eramo were presenting evidence on potential damages to the 10-person U.S. District Court jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, the spokeswoman for Judge Glen Conrad said.

Eramo is seeking at least $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages in the high-profile case. It was unclear when jurors would begin deliberating or how long the damages phase might take.

The jury on Friday found Rolling Stone, owner Wenner Media and reporter Sabrina Erdely liable of actual malice against Eramo in the magazine’s November 2014 story “A Rape on Campus.”

The magazine reported that a female student identified only as “Jackie” was raped at a university fraternity in 2012. The story sparked a national debate about sexual assault on U.S. college campuses and resonated with many who saw it as a battle cry against sexual violence on campuses.

Rolling Stone admitted that it never sought comment from the seven men accused of the alleged rape and retracted the story in April 2015. An outside review found the magazine had failed to follow basic journalistic safeguards.

Eramo, who was then an associate dean of students, accused the magazine of portraying her as the story’s villain and as focused on hushing up sexual assault reports. She now works in an administrative role at the university.

Eramo has claimed damages from the story include harm to her reputation, embarrassment, emotional distress and humiliation.

Campus sexual assault remains a major concern, with some reports estimating that one in five female students will be a victim. (Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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