Sunday, July 19, 2015

Billy Doe Part of Rolling Stone Libel Suit Over False Rape Story

By Ralph Cipriano

Lawyers in a nationally prominent libel suit pitting a University of Virginia dean against Rolling Stone magazine are sparring in court over the veracity of Billy Doe.

Billy Doe is a grand jury's pseudonym for a former Northeast Philly altar boy who claimed he was raped by two priests and and a Catholic school teacher. Billy's allegations at two historic criminal trials here in Philadelphia sent his three alleged assailants in jail, as well as Msgr. William J. Lynn, for not preventing the alleged abuse.

The libel suit that seeks $7.5 million was brought by Associate Dean Nicole P. Eramo of UVA over the November 2014 publication by Rolling Stone of "A Rape on Campus; A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice At UVA." The article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, since retracted, claimed that "Jackie," a student at the University of Virginia, had been allegedly gang-raped by seven men at a fraternity party. Eramo's lawsuit calls the story a "monumental hoax."

But it may not be the reporter's only screwup. Three years before she wrote about Jackie for Rolling Stone, Erdely wrote a story about Billy for Rolling Stone that accepted as gospel Doe's fantastic rape claims. The article was titled, "The Catholic Church's Sex-Crime Files: How a scandal in Philadelphia exposed documents that reveal a high-level conspiracy to cover up decades of sexual abuse."

In the legal complaint filed by Dean Eramo in the Circuit Court of the city of Charlottesville, VA, the plaintiff's lawyers wrote that "Following the debunking of 'A Rape on Campus,' Newsweek examined the Billy Doe story, determining that 'the factual discrepancies in Jackie's story are dwarfed by the factual discrepancies in Billy's story" and also "noting Billy Doe's 'astonishing lack of credibility."

It's not mentioned in the lawsuit but should be noted here that the author of this blog post was also the author of the Newsweek story referred to in the legal complaint.

In that complaint, lawyers for the dean claim that there were factual discrepancies with a third article that Erdely wrote for Rolling Stone in 2013, "The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer." And that all three articles in Rolling Stone by Erderly exhibit similar patterns of shoddy journalism.

"Rolling Stone published both the Billy Doe and Officer Blumer articles and was therefore aware of Erdely's penchant for placing wholesale trust in unreliable sources and for purposefully avoiding facts that do not support her preconceived narrative regarding the particular institution that is failing to protect individuals from rape," the dean's lawyers wrote in their complaint.

"The narrative fits Erdely's pattern and practice of using narrative journalism in which a shocking rape case is used as the vehicle to show that a given institution is indifferent to, or actively seeks to conceal, sexual assaults, just as she did in her 2011 and 2013 Rolling Stone articles, 'The Catholic Church's Sex-Crime Files,' and 'The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer,'"  the lawyers wrote in their complaint.

"Thus, even before she spoke to Jackie or settled on UVA as her target, Erdely was intent on writing a narrative that used a single, shocking rape case to depict a pervasive 'rape culture' on a college campus and an administration that supposedly sought to cover up sexual assaults," the lawyers wrote.

In a response filed last week, lawyers for Rolling Stone denied the allegations in the complaint, specifically that Erderly had written stories about sexual abuse that resulted in "serious criticism for their factual inaccuracy." The stories, the magazine's lawyers wrote, speak for themselves.

The lawsuit on behalf of the UVA dean was filed in May by lawyers Thomas A. Clare, Elizabeth M. Locke, and Joseph R. Oliveri. In the lawsuit, the lawyers claimed that Rolling Stone cast the dean, who had met with and counseled Jackie, as "the chief villain of the story."

The lawsuit claims that in the Rolling Stone story and in interviews Erdely gave to promote the story,  the reporter libeled the dean by claiming she was indifferent to Jackie's allegations, and that she claimed to Jackie that UVA withholds rape statistics "because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school."

The complaint alleged that as part of their effort to defame Dean Eramo, the magazine hired an illustrator to doctor an innocuous classroom photo of Eramo to make it seem like she was standing in front of a desk and flashing a thumb's up sign while a rape victim is crying in front of her. As part of that effort, the lawsuit claims, Rolling Stone altered the whites of Eramo's eyes to make her appear "wild-eyed" and to portray her as the "villain" of the UVA rape story.

In their response, Elizabeth A. McNamara and other lawyers for Rolling Stone argue that Erdely wrote in the story that Dean Eramo comforted the student and calmly laid out her legal options.

Rolling Stone's lawyers admit the magazine procured the photo of the dean and hired the illustrator who provided the artwork for the magazine's since retracted story. But Rolling Stone's lawyers denied the dean's allegations and said that both the photo and the illustration speak for themselves.

Billy Doe has a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It was originally scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 3rd, but last week was postponed until Nov. 9th, when Pope Francis will be safely out of town.

A Hollywood Reporter story on the UVA lawsuit made the Drudge Report today because of the magazine's claim that a university staffer had supposedly vouched for Jackie's credibility.


  1. I am sure there will be a job for Erdely at the INKY, she seems to be the type of reporter they employ,acting the judge and jury all in one.

    1. It seems that "type" of reporter you speak about is right under your nose. Worked for the Inky and continues acting like the judge or jury all in one.

    2. Well at least its not the feds side of the story, which is over criminalizing the country. Its refreshing to actually hear what goes on in a courtroom, we don't get that from the INKY reporters, their articles are all slanted in the federal prosecutors favor. Sit in on a trial and see if the paper reports what factually happened , what goes to print is not the same as what actually took place.
      I spoke to an attorney after a trial were an FBI agent was caught lying, I was told the paper will NEVER write that and FBI agent lied. Is that the justice you want to read ? The federal prosecutors should be able to sign their names to the editorial page and articles its dictated , handing one sided facts to reporters to print is very biased.

  2. I hope the lawyers for this UVA dean suck both the Rolling Stone and this woman dry with this facts, no witnesses, no physical evidence, eerily similar to Danny Gallagher's claims of abuse while at St. Jeromes' ......oh that's right, drug addicts like danny don't lie, don't steal, don't steal from their own families and friends, we should take what they say as the absolute truth.....

    Anonymous 1:27, unfortunately by the time this woman's civil trial gets to court, the INKY won't be in business.....except on the absolute waste of a paper.....

  3. Most likely civil trial will be pushed ahead to 2016 if new trial granted Msgr Lynn. Once case collapses on its merits, civil trial will collapse on its own merits, too.

  4. It seems Ralph can predict the future or has a crystal ball to look in.

    At Father Andy's second trial, on Feb. 27, 2025,

    Is there a proofreader position open ?

  5. We could use one. I just fixed the date. Thanks for pointing it out.


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