Charlottesville, VA June 13, 2017; The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity has agreed to settle and dismiss its defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely arising from the magazine’s publication of the November, 2014 article A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA. It has been nearly three years since we and the entire University of Virginia community were shocked by the now infamous article, and we are pleased to be able to close the book on that trying ordeal and its aftermath. The chapter looks forward to donating a significant portion of its settlement proceeds to organizations that provide sexual assault awareness education, prevention training and victim counseling services on college campuses. Individual members of the chapter will not conduct media interviews at this time.
Charlottesville, VA, November 4, 2016; The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi is pleased the jury held Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely responsible for the defamatory story they published about Nicole Eramo, our fraternity, and the University of Virginia. We look forward to presenting our case in court in 2017 to receive justice for the damage caused by their irresponsible actions.
Charlottesville, VA September 1, 2016; Today Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore denied Rolling Stone’s motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit filed against the magazine by the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Judge Moore rejected all three arguments submitted by Rolling Stone.
“The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity appreciates Judge Moore’s carefully considered decision to reject Rolling Stone’s attempt to dismiss our defamation claim,” said Tom Albro, lead counsel for the chapter. “We remain committed to seeking justice and accountability at trial for the harm the magazine, its reporter and its editors inflicted on the organization and its members.”
Given the pending trial, members of Phi Kappa Psi will not be participating in media interviews.
Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Rolling Stone Magazine
Charlottesville, VA November 9, 2015; Today the brothers of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi filed a defamation lawsuit in Charlottesville, Virginia Circuit Court against Rolling Stone magazine and contributing editor Sabrina Erdely seeking in excess of $25 million in damages related to the publication of the November 2014 article “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA.” The 355-page complaint alleges in great detail how Rolling Stone and Erdely were determined in advance to support a preconceived narrative of college campus sexual assault culture by depicting the most graphic and horrific story they could find, regardless of its truth. Rolling Stone and Erdely deliberately ignored known facts and readily pursuable leads that, if acknowledged or pursued, would have shown that the allegations of ritualized brutal gang rape were fabricated. Rolling Stone published the article with reckless disregard for the truth.
The fraternity chapter and its student and alumni members suffered extreme damage to their reputations in the aftermath of the article’s publication and continue to suffer despite the ultimate unraveling of the story. Innocent brothers were besieged in their residence, physically threatened, protested against and vilified by unknown assailants, fellow students and the university community. Impacts of the article were felt well beyond the University of Virginia and Charlottesville. The original story drew almost 3 million unique visitors to the RollingStone.com website, and was shared on social media hundreds of thousands times. For a time, “A Rape on Campus” was the biggest news story in America. The chapter and its members became the symbol for rape on college campuses.
Since 1853 Virginia Alpha has initiated over 1400 brothers, including President of the United States Woodrow Wilson. Today’s brothers continue the Phi Psi tradition of serving others while striving to excel both academically and through student leadership roles; its membership consists historically of individuals from a cross section of society, some of whom are attending the University of Virginia on partial or full financial scholarships; the fraternity is not “elitist”. Sadly, Rolling Stone’s false depiction of our chapter and the resulting media frenzy swept away 162 years of goodwill and accomplishment and harmed over 800 living alumni and their families. The article also subjected the student members and their families to danger and immense stress while jeopardizing the future existence of the chapter.
Despite the self-evident defamation and the severe damages suffered by the chapter, the decision to file this lawsuit was not made lightly. In the end, it was the egregious behavior of Rolling Stone that tipped the balance. Rolling Stone engaged in a cynical bargain with its source, in which Rolling Stone intentionally avoided sourcing and corroborating the story in return for continued willingness to support its preconceived narrative. Allegations of systematic gang rape carried out in the service of institutional policy is the stuff of life-ruining criminal prosecution, or when carried out by nations and armies, war crimes.
Rape is a brutal and heinous crime, and sexual assault on college campuses must not be tolerated. Serious public discourse about sexual assault is not served, however, by the intentional publication of a lurid and horrific story that was entirely concocted. As stated by the founder of our great University:
"No inference is here intended that the laws provided by the State against false and defamatory publications should not be enforced; he who has time renders a service to public morals and public tranquility in reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law." --Thomas Jefferson. Second Inaugural Address, Washington D.C., March 4, 1805.
The brothers at Phi Kappa Psi would like the media to know that they will not be granting interviews regarding this matter until the case is resolved. Please direct all inquiries to Brian Ellis at (804) 512-4797.
The full text of the 355-page complaint as-filed is here.
UVA’s Phi Psi Responds to Cleared Rape Allegations
Charlottesville police conclude investigation of sexual assault; clear fraternity
Charlottesville, VA March. 23, 2015; After a four-month-long investigation involving over 70 personal interviews and hundreds of police man hours, the Charlottesville Police Department today formally cleared the Virginia Alpha Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity of all sexual assault allegations stemming from a November 19, 2014 Rolling Stone article erroneously accusing Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit. According to the report provided to media by the Department, “Having exhausted all investigative leads … there is no substantive basis to support the account alleged in the Rolling Stone article.”
In its controversial article, Rolling Stone recklessly and prejudicially thrust the brothers of Phi Kappa Psi into the center of a national debate on the topic of sexual assault on college campuses. When key elements of the story were revealed to be untrue, the magazine backed away from its support of the story, yet to this day the article remains posted on Rolling Stone’s website.
“These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault,” said Stephen Scipione, President of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. “We hope that Rolling Stone’s actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve.”
Phi Psi has been quietly and actively collaborating with the Charlottesville Police throughout the investigation despite our belief that the story was untrue. Following the publication of the defamatory article, the chapter launched an extensive internal investigation, which quickly confirmed that the horrific events described in the Rolling Stone article did not occur.
Both the Virginia Alpha chapter and Phi Psi’s national organization adhere to a strict zero tolerance policy in regards to sexual assault. Phi Psi is committed to sexual assault prevention through its support for and participation in organizations such as the student-led “One in Four,” and by requiring at initiation all new members take the “It’s on Us” pledge. The chapter was the first on Grounds to sign the updated Fraternal Organization Agreement implementing new, stronger protocols to improve the safety of all students and our members remain committed to setting a positive example for the University and Charlottesville community.
Phi Kappa Psi is now exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone – damage both to the chapter and its members and to the very cause upon which the magazine was focused. We’d like to thank Chief Longo and his extremely professional staff for all their work and we are encouraged that the Department is continuing to investigate the multiple incidents of vandalism that occurred at our chapter house in the wake of the article’s publication. Finally, the chapter requests that all news media immediately cease the use of images of our fraternity house in conjunction with stories about or relating to the topic of sexual assault.
For more information on the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi and the national organization, visit www.phikappapsi.com.
Charlottesville, VA January 12, 2015; Today the University of Virginia (UVA) announced the full reinstatement of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. UVA President Theresa Sullivan informed the fraternity of her decision following an update on the investigation being conducted by the Charlottesville Police Department.
“We are pleased that the University and the Charlottesville Police Department have cleared our fraternity of any involvement in this case,” said Stephen Scipione, president, Virginia Alpha Chapter Phi Kappa Psi. “In today’s 24-hour news cycle, we all have a tendency to rush to judgment without having all of the facts in front of us. As a result, our fraternity was vandalized, our members ostracized based on false information.”
Phi Kappa Psi’s own investigation into the case quickly revealed many factual errors in the November 19, 2014 Rolling Stone article, which ultimately led to follow up reports that raise questions about other aspects of the story.
Members of Phi Kappa Psi participated in the development of a new Fraternal Organization Agreement designed to create a safer student environment on campus. That agreement was approved by President Sullivan prior to lifting restrictions on Greek life on campus. Phi Kappa Psi has agreed to the new guidelines and will enact those provisions immediately.
“We believe that in the midst of this ordeal, there is an opportunity for good. This has prompted us to take a closer look at ourselves and what role organizations like ours may play in ensuring student safety. It’s opened all of our eyes to the problem women like Jackie face,” said Scipione. “Now it’s time to do something about it. As a fraternity, we are going to continue discussing that need in the coming weeks.”
Phi Kappa Psi already has a comprehensive program in place addressing sexual assault education and awareness that is mandatory for all new members. The fraternity has been on UVA’s campus since 1853 and currently has more than 800 alumni across the country.
December 5, 2014
“Over the past two weeks the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi has been working tirelessly and openly with the Charlottesville Police Department as they investigate the allegations detailed in the November 19, 2012 Rolling Stone article. We continue to be shocked by the allegations and saddened by this story. We have no knowledge of these alleged acts being committed at our house or by our members. Anyone who commits any form of sexual assault, wherever or whenever, should be identified and brought to justice.
“In tandem with the Charlottesville Police Department’s investigation, the Chapter’s undergraduate members have made efforts to contribute with internal fact-finding. Our initial doubts as to the accuracy of the article have only been strengthened as alumni and undergraduate members have delved deeper. Given the ongoing nature of the criminal investigation, which we fully support, we do not feel it would be appropriate at this time to provide more than the following:
“First, the 2012 roster of employees at the Aquatic and Fitness Center does not list a Phi Kappa Psi as a lifeguard. As far as we have determined, no member of our fraternity worked there in any capacity during this time period.
“Second, the Chapter did not have a date function or a social event during the weekend of September 28th, 2012.
“Third, our Chapter’s pledging and initiation periods, as required by the University and Inter-Fraternity Council, take place solely in the spring semester and not in the fall semester. We document the initiation of new members at the end of each spring. Moreover, no ritualized sexual assault is part of our pledging or initiation process. This notion is vile, and we vehemently refute this claim.
It is our hope that this information will encourage people who may know anything relevant to this case to contact the Charlottesville Police Department as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will continue to assist investigators in whatever way we can.”
Nov. 20, 2014
Although at this time we have no specific knowledge of the claims set out in the Rolling Stone Article, we take this matter — and these tragic allegations — very seriously. That is why after being notified by the University of allegations following their informal investigation in late September, we subsequently notified our alumni chapter advisor and housing corporation. Through these representatives, local law enforcement was notified within days. This is a serious matter for the criminal justice system and the university investigative process and we will cooperate quickly, openly and honestly in any forthcoming investigation that may be conducted. To that end, as of today we have voluntarily surrendered our Fraternal Organization Agreement with the University, thereby suspending all chapter activities during this process. Make no mistake, the acts depicted in the article are beyond unacceptable — they are vile and intolerable in our brotherhood, our university community and our society. We remain ready and willing to assist with the fair and swift pursuit of justice, wherever that may lead, and steadfast in our resolve to ensure that nothing like this can happen, ever on our Grounds.