Prosecutor drops charges in Duke case

Started by blackmanxxx, Apr 11, 2007, 11:46 AM

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Prosecutor drops charges in Duke case

By AARON BEARD, Associated Press Writer
2 minutes ago

RALEIGH, N.C. - Prosecutors dropped all charges Wednesday against the three Duke lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting a stripper at a party, saying the athletes were innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse" by an overreaching district attorney.


"There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a blistering assessment of Durham County District Mike Nifong's handling of the case.

Cooper, who took over the case after Nifong was charged with ethics violations that could get him disbarred, said his own investigation concluded not only that the evidence against the young men was insufficient, but that no attack took place.

Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans were indicted last spring on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense after the woman told police she was assaulted at a lacrosse team party where she had been hired to perform as a stripper.

The allegations at first outraged the city of Durham, a faded tobacco capital with a long history of tension between its large working-class black population and Duke, an elite private school where most of the students are white and many come from privilege. The woman is black and attended nearby North Carolina Central University; all three Duke players are white.

But that anger largely shifted to Nifong as his evidence against the three fell apart and questions surfaced about the accuser.

"We just hope this traumatic experience for all involved ends with the minimum amount of damage," said the Rev.        Jesse Jackson, whose Chicago-based Rainbow/Push Coalition had offered to help the accuser pay for college but wasn't able to contact her.

The 28-year-old woman initially said she was gang-raped and beaten by three white men at the March 13, 2006, party thrown by Duke's highly ranked lacrosse team. The three players who were indicted insisted the accusations were "fantastic lies," and another dancer who had been with the woman also questioned if she had been raped and said the woman seemed drunk when she tried to drive her home that night.

In the end, it appeared the case was based only on the testimony of the accuser, whom defense attorneys said had told wildly different versions of the alleged assault.

Nifong's recusal in January put the players' fate in the hands of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who promised "a fresh and thorough review of the facts."

The North Carolina State Bar charged Nifong with making misleading and inflammatory comments about the athletes under suspicion. It later added more serious offenses of withholding evidence from defense attorneys and lying to the court and bar investigators. He stands trial on those charges in June.

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