Woman files $800,000 defamation lawsuit against student newspaper

VIRGINIA –A student newspaper is being sued for $800,000 on allegations that the paperpublished defamatory statements last year about a rape victim.

Thecomplaint was filed April 11 in a state trial court against five staff membersat The Remnant, a student newspaper at the College ofWilliam and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

The woman suing the newspaperwas a victim of rape while visiting the College of William and Mary, accordingto the complaint.

During the months of April and May 2005,The Remnant published statements aboutthe woman ”knowing that the statements were false” and made”with reckless disregard,” the complaint said.

The woman reportedshe was raped at a campus party in 2003 when she was 16 years old, according toan articlein the Daily Press, a local newspaper.

The complaint alleges that, two years later, the paper published astatement indicating the woman was a ”wannabe victim,” a ”conartist” and that she was a liar.

Remnant editor-in-chief Will Coggin did not return calls for comment, but he told the Daily Press Thursday afternoon that thenewspaper staff would review the complaint today.

”We feellike we’ve done everything right,” Coggin said in the article. ”We’re prepared to defend ourselves.”

The Remnant ran into trouble in February when newspaper staff posted fliers around campus naming another alleged rape victim.

Coggin said inFebruary that the fliers were made to notify the highest number of studentsabout the paper’s ongoing coverage of an alleged rape that occurred at asorority party Oct. 28.

The flier included the name of the allegedvictim, and said recent documents obtained by the newspaper revealed that she”had consensual sex with a second individual in her residence that night,after she was allegedly raped.” The flier directed students to thepaper’s Web site, which contains further coverage and links to court documents.

The defamation lawsuit names The Remnant and several former andcurrent staff members as defendants.

Coggin told the Daily Press that several of thedefendants have already graduated from William and Mary.

The Remnant has beenrecognized as a student organization, but not a student publication, said BillWalker, a spokesman for the College of William and Mary.

Walker said the newspaper staff occasionally produces a print edition of the paper, but it is known mostly as a blog.