Sabrina Rubin Erdely, author of “A Rape on Campus” and part of former Associate Dean Nicole Eramo’s $7.85 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine, finished her testimony Saturday.
Scott Sexton, Erdely and Rolling Stone’s attorney, continued his direct examination of Erdely by asking her about her personal view of Eramo.
Sexton also asked Erdely if she had ever called for Eramo’s termination from the University, to which Erdely responded she would have never thought such a thing.
“I had no reason to have any bad feeling toward Eramo. She had a difficult job,” Erdely said. “I admired how the students felt about her. She had to balance the needs of the student with the University policy. She was in [between] a rock and a hard place.”
After questioning Erdely about her opinions of Eramo’s career, Sexton questioned Erdely about her own, especially surrounding the release of “A Rape on Campus.”
“I feel very blessed as I advanced through my career,” Erdely said. “Once I got to Rolling Stone, I had contracts more than the average journalist makes.”
Erdely said there was no financial pressure on her while writing “A Rape on Campus,” as she knew she was being paid on a monthly basis, regardless.
However, after Rolling Stone’s apology for the article on Dec. 5, 2014, Erdely’s contract was terminated. Erdely testified she has not made any money since.
Sexton then questioned Erdely regarding the statements Eramo took issue with, specifically Erdely’s intentions behind her quotes and their implications.
Eramo claimed she never “discouraged [Jackie] from sharing her story,” as Erdely reported. Erdely explained she meant that Jackie was discouraged from sharing her story with Rolling Stone, not with the police or the University.
Erdely said she never endorsed the interpretation that Eramo didn’t want Jackie to go to the police.
The article also states Jackie was “disappointed by Eramo’s non-reaction.”
The quotes were often in reference to school administration and policy, not Eramo specifically, Erdely said.
Erdely was writing a statement defending Jackie’s story and explaining why Jackie had not wanted her to contact her assailant on Dec. 5, 2014, she said. This statement was never published.
Phone records — which detailed a phone call that took place between Erdely and Jackie in the early hours of Dec. 5 — were brought before the court.
Erdely said Jackie revealed she was no longer certain her assailant was from Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity where Jackie alleged she was gang raped.
“I felt like the ground had shifted under me,” Erdely said. “She had told me things that were not true.”
The Columbia School of Journalism carried out an investigation into the article, some of the findings of which Sexton presented in court during the direct examination.
According to its report, “Erdely believed that Jackie’s account was reliable. So did her editors and the story’s fact checker.”
Erdely said she agreed with this statement and at this point, her testimony came to a close.
Brian Head, a new witness who had been interviewed for Erdely’s article, was the next to take the stand. Head graduated from the University in 2015. He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta and served as president of One in Four, an all-male sexual violence prevention group, during his fourth year.
Andy Phillips, Eramo’s attorney, began Head’s direct examination, questioning Head about the kind of support Eramo offered to One in Four.
“She helps educate members and helps us see the administrative side,” Head said. “She had a very positive reputation.”
Head was quoted in Erdely’s article as saying “the most impressive person at U.Va. is the person who gets straight A’s and goes to all the parties.”
Head did not dispute that he said this when questioned by Erdely’s attorney, David Paxton. However, he argued that that was not what they spoke about at length.
“I was not treated honestly. I wanted to paint the full picture of the advocacy work being done,” Head said.
In response to Phillips’s question which asked if Eramo was portrayed correctly, Head disagreed.
“Her portrayal in the article was the opposite to the person I knew,” Head said. “We gave her flowers. To see her portrayed this way was devastating.”
Court is expected to resume Monday morning.
Correction: A previous version of this article described Sexton's direct examination of Erdely as a cross-examination, and did the same for Phillips' direct examination of Head.