Why 3 former UVA fraternity members may have a better case against Rolling Stone than other students

University Virginia Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity House UVA Students DrinkingAP Photo/Steve HelberAn attendee at the Phi Kappa Psi House rush downs a drink during the beginning of fraternity rush week at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015.

Three former University of Virginia fraternity members were each easily tied to anonymous perpetrators of an alleged gang rape in a discredited Rolling Stone story on the university, they claim in a defamation lawsuit against the magazine.

The three students — George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler — all graduated in 2013 and were members of UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity while on campus. As detailed in Rolling Stone’s now-retracted story “A Rape on Campus,” a UVA student “Jackie” was gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house during a 2012 party.

Much — if not all — of Jackie’s story has since been disproved by media reports, a police investigation, and a report by Columbia Journalism School that Rolling Stone published in April.

Details in Rolling Stone’s UVA article, according to the lawsuit, “created a simple and direct way” to match the three plaintiffs with the supposed rapists. This may be why Elias, Hadford, and Fowler rather than other fraternity members chose to file the defamation lawsuit.

“George Elias IV lived in the fraternity house in the first room at the top of the first flight of stairs at the time the alleged crime took place … Based on the vivid details described in the Rolling Stone article, this room location was the most likely scene of the alleged crime,” the lawsuit stated.

“Upon release of the article, family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and reporters easily matched Plaintiff as one of the alleged attackers and, among other things, interrogated him, humiliated him, and scolded him,” the lawsuit continued. “Plaintiffs Hadford and Fowler suffered similar attacks.”

The former students are suing for both defamation and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit also claims that Elias, Hadford, and Fowler were each identified online when Rolling Stone’s article first came out last year and their names will “indefinitely be associated with the alleged gang rape” at their fraternity.

Rolling Stone declined to comment on the lawsuit when reached by Business Insider.

UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity announced in April that it would be suing the magazine, although no lawsuit has yet been filed. A UVA dean — Nicole Eramo — filed a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone in May.

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