Woman files $800,000 defamation lawsuit against student newspaper

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

The complaint was filed April 11 in a state trial court against five staff members at The Remnant, a student newspaper at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

The woman suing the newspaper was a victim of rape while visiting the College of William and Mary, according to the complaint.

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

The woman reported she was raped at a campus party in 2003 when she was 16 years old, according to an article in the Daily Press, a local newspaper.

The complaint alleges that, two years later, the paper published a statement indicating the woman was a ''wannabe victim,'' a ''con artist'' 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 the newspaper staff would review the complaint today.

''We feel like 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 in February that the fliers were made to notify the highest number of students about the paper's ongoing coverage of an alleged rape that occurred at a sorority party Oct. 28.

The flier included the name of the alleged victim, 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 the paper's Web site, which contains further coverage and links to court documents.

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

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

The Remnant has been recognized as a student organization, but not a student publication, said Bill Walker, 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.

College of William and Mary, news, The Remnant, Virginia