Civil, Criminal Lawsuits: Possible Outcomes of Rolling Stone Expose

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December 5, 2014

The Rolling Stone statement released Friday acknowledging "discrepancies" in the magazine's November article "Rape on Campus", might have been an attempt to protect itself from legal action.

"Even though no one was named as a perpetrator...everyone knows who is in that fraternity and to some extent each one of them has been defamed and slandered by the reporting that took place," said CBS19 legal expert Scott Goodman.

Several members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the center of the rape allegations have met with lawyers, the national chapter also has legal representation. Goodman says a civil suit against the magazine and the author of the article, Sabrina Erdely, is much more likely than any criminal charges against the alleged rapists.

"I can say with 100 percent certainty that in this case there will never be an arrest," said Goodman. "I think this case been shot and this is a very damaging thing for true sexual assault victims."

The University of Virginia student at the center of the rape allegations, identified as "Jackie" in the Rolling Stone article, recently sought legal representation from the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. Her attorney, Palma Pustilnik, has not returned calls for comment. When the article was published, Jackie had not filed a police report with Charlottesville Police. However, in the ensuing days, if she met with police investigating the allegations, Goodman said she could also face legal trouble.

"If she met with police officers and has reported things she has reported to the magazine writer and they turn out not to be true, than she could face charges herself for giving false information to a police officer," Goodman said.

Her attorney told the Washington Post Friday that she stands by her story, even as Rolling Stone calls many aspects into question. University officials released a brief statement saying the school's priority remains focused on supporting students, especially survivors of sexual assault.

Goodman said the backpedaling by Rolling Stone is just the beginning of the story. "There will be ramifications, there will be a demand for a further retraction and for an apology," he said. "That still might not stave off civil lawsuits by the fraternity members or by the fraternity itself against the magazine and maybe even some university officials."

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