By Ian Simpson
(Reuters) - A University of Virginia official filed a $7.85 million libel suit against Rolling Stone magazine, its parent company and a reporter on Tuesday over a now-debunked story of a gang rape on the U.S. campus.
The suit claimed that Nicole Eramo, associate dean of students, was defamed by Rolling Stone, Wenner Media and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely in the November 2014 article about an alleged 2012 gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
The article, "A Rape On Campus," created an uproar at the Virginia school and sparked a national debate about sexual violence at U.S. colleges. But Rolling Stone backed away from it in December and a Columbia University review commissioned by the magazine last month found the story failed to follow basic journalistic safeguards.
The 76-page suit filed in state Circuit Court in Charlottesville, Virginia, said that Rolling Stone, Wenner Media and Erdely aimed to depict the University of Virginia as an institution that was indifferent to rape on campus.
"To personify the university's alleged institutional indifference to rape, Erdely and Rolling Stone cast Dean Eramo, who met with and counseled Jackie (the alleged rape victim), as the chief villain of the story," it said.
The suit filed by attorney Tom Clare of Alexandria, Virginia, seeks at least $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
Elizabeth McNamara, an attorney with New York's Davis Wright Tremaine LLP representing Rolling Stone, declined to comment.
The magazine is owned by Jann Wenner, who founded it in 1967 primarily to cover music and culture. Wenner Media, which is privately held, also publishes the magazines Us Weekly and Men's Journal.
An investigation by Charlottesville police found no evidence that Jackie had been gang raped.
The magazine has said it will commit itself to a series of recommendations made in the Columbia University review. Erdely also has apologized for the story.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Lambert)