Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reports Says Duke Lacrosse Charges Will Be Dropped

Report: Duke lacrosse charges to be dropped

Three players were charged with kidnapping and forcible sexual offense

MSNBC staff and news service reports
Updated: 11:54 p.m. ET April 10, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. - The three men indicted in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case will have charges of first degree kidnapping and first degree forcible sexual offense dismissed against them, ABC News reported Tuesday night.

Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense last spring after a woman told police she was assaulted at a March 2006 team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.

The players had also been indicted for first degree rape, but that charge was dismissed in December after the accuser changed a key detail in her story, and recused himself a few weeks later after the state bar charged with several ethics violations tied to his handling of the case.

The office of Attorney General Roy Cooper did not give ABC News a reason for the dismissal.

No motions or court papers were filed in the case on Tuesday.

The attorney general’s office, which has said for several weeks it was close to completing its investigation since taking the case from the district attorney, has wrapped up the additional interviews, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

A chronology of events surrounding allegations members of Duke's lacrosse team raped an exotic dancer hired to perform at a team party:

March 13, 2006 -- Duke lacrosse players throw a team party at an off-campus house, hiring two strippers to perform.

March 14 -- One of the dancers tells Durham police three men at the party forced her into a bathroom, where she said she was beaten, raped and sodomized. It is later learned she told authorities several different versions of the alleged attack in the hours after the party.

March 23 -- Forty-six of the team's 47 members comply with a judge's order to provide DNA samples and be photographed. The team's sole black member is not tested, because the victim said her attackers were white.

March 25 -- School announces lacrosse team will not play two scheduled games, citing the team's decision to hire "private party dancers" and underage drinking at the party.

March 28 -- Duke suspends lacrosse team from play until it has a "clearer resolution of the legal situation" involving team members.

March 29 -- In an interview with the News & Observer of Raleigh, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong calls the members of the lacrosse team "a bunch of hooligans."

April 3 -- Nifong stops granting interviews about the case.

April 4 -- The accuser identifies her attackers in a photo lineup suggested by Nifong that included pictures only of team members. The defense later called the lineup "an incoherent mass of contradiction and error."

April 5 -- Lacrosse coach Mike Pressler resigns. Duke President Richard Brodhead cancels the team's season after authorities unseal a search warrant containing an e-mail from player Ryan McFadyen in which he says he wants to kill and skin strippers. McFadyen is suspended from school. He later says the e-mail was a joke.

April 6 -- The accuser provides investigators with a five-page, handwritten statement detailing the alleged attack.

April 10 -- Defense attorneys announce DNA test results find no match between the players tested and the woman accusing the players of rape.

April 11 -- Nifong says he will continue investigating the rape allegations.

April 17 -- A Durham County grand jury returns sealed indictments against two Duke lacrosse players.

April 18 -- Duke lacrosse players Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty are taken into custody on charges of rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. Each is released after posting bond. Nifong says authorities are continuing to try to identify a third possible assailant.

April 25 -- Granville County authorities confirm the accuser told police 10 years ago she was raped by three men when she was 14. None of the men were charged.

May 1 -- A Duke University committee recommends the school's lacrosse team resume play next season, but adds the team needs strict monitoring because of a history of problems tied to alcohol.

May 2 -- Nifong fends off two challengers to win the Democratic primary for district attorney.

May 8 -- A university report concludes Duke administrators were slow to react to the scandal in part because of initial doubts about the accuser's credibility.

May 12 -- Defense attorneys say a second round of DNA testing finds no conclusive match between the accuser and any lacrosse players.

May 15 -- A grand jury indicts lacrosse team co-captain David Evans. Evans speaks publicly before surrendering to police, saying, "You have all been told some fantastic lies, and I look forward to watching them unravel in the weeks to come."

June 5 -- Duke's president reinstates the men's lacrosse program for play in 2007, but under strict rules and close monitoring.

June 29 -- McFadyen, an unindicted player, is reinstated at Duke following his suspension for sending the vulgar e-mail about killing strippers.

July 21 -- Duke hires John Danowski from Hofstra to coach the lacrosse team. His son, Matt, is a Duke senior and All-American attackman for the Blue Devils.

Sept. 4 -- The lacrosse team returns to practice for the first time since March 27, 2006.

Oct. 31 -- Nifong insists in an interview with The Associated Press that he and police have not mishandled the case and said his only regret was granting so many interviews early on.

Nov. 7 -- Nifong is elected to a four-year term as district attorney, beating out a write-in candidate and an unaffiliated candidate who did not actively campaign.

Dec. 15 -- The director of a private DNA lab testifies that, as part of an agreement with Nifong, he omitted from a May report that no genetic material from any member of the lacrosse team was among that of several males found in the accuser's underwear and body.

Dec. 21 -- An investigator in Nifong's office interviews the accuser, during which she changes several key details of her account.

Dec. 22 -- Nifong drops rape charges against the three players, citing the accuser's statement from the day before in which she said she was no longer certain whether she was penetrated vaginally by a penis, a necessary element of rape charges in North Carolina. The players remain charged with kidnapping and sexual offense.

Dec. 28 -- The North Carolina State Bar files ethics charges against Nifong, accusing him of making misleading and inflammatory comments to the media about the athletes under suspicion.

Jan. 2, 2007 -- Nifong is sworn into office in a private ceremony.

Jan. 3 -- Duke invites Seligmann and Finnerty to return to school as students in good standing, saying the circumstances in the case have changed. The accuser gives birth to a girl at a hospital in Chapel Hill.

Jan. 4 -- Former Duke player Kyle Dowd and his parents sue the university, alleging that one of his professors unfairly gave him a failing grade because he was a member of the team.

Jan. 10 -- The judge overseeing the case orders a paternity test to determine the father of the accuser's child. Nifong and the defense agree the pregnancy is unrelated to the team party, but both sides agreed the test should be conducted to silence any doubts.

Jan. 11 -- Citing a prosecution report, the defense says in court papers the accuser told investigators during the Dec. 21 interview that Seligmann did not commit any sex act on her during the alleged attack, but was repeatedly urged to join in.

Jan. 12 -- Nifong asks the state attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor in the case, saying he worries the pending ethics charges against him might result in an unfair trial.

Jan. 13 -- State Attorney General Roy Cooper agrees to take over the case. "Agreeing to accept the prosecution of these cases doesn't guarantee a trial, nor does it guarantee a dismissal," Cooper said.

Jan. 24 -- The state bar amends its ethics complaint against Nifong, accusing him of withholding evidence from the defense and lying to both to the court and bar investigators.

Feb. 24 -- Duke beats Dartmouth 17-11 in its first men's lacrosse game in 11 months.

Feb. 28 -- In his response to the state bar's complaint, Nifong says he did not intentionally break ethics rules.

March 13 -- The anniversary of team party passes uneventfully in Durham and on campus.

March 15 -- With investigators, Cooper tours the house where the lacrosse team threw the party.

March 21 -- The state bar sets a June 12 trial date for ethics charges against Nifong.

March 25 -- Kirk Osborn, an attorney for Reade Seligmann, dies of a heart attack at age 64.

April 10--ABC News reports that charges against the atheletes have been dropped.

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Duke Lacrosse Case Charges to Be Dropped

Three Players Were Facing Charges of First Degree Kidnapping, First Degree Forcible Sexual Offense

ABC News Law & Justice Unit

April 10, 2007 — - The office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper will announce that he is dismissing all charges against three Duke Lacrosse players, ABC News has learned from sources close to the case.

Special prosecutors from the attorney general's office took over the case after Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong recused himself in January amid charges of unethical conduct filed against him by the North Carolina Bar.

Since then, Jim Coman and Mary Winstead have examined the case from scratch, interviewing key witnesses and working through reams of evidence in an explosive case that combined sensitive issues of race and class.

Cooper will announce his decision regarding the case at the North Carolina Attorney General's office in Raleigh, N.C., at 2:30 p.m.

Watch Cooper's announcement live on ABC News Now.

"Cooper's decision follows a thorough review of the case by attorneys in his Special Prosecutions Division," according to a release from the attorney general's office.

David Freedman, Nifong's attorney, told ABC News that his client has no reaction to the news of the dismissal.

"Today is about the criminal case," Freedman said, not about Nifong.

The three players, Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty, were facing charges of first degree kidnapping and first degree forcible sexual offense. The charges stem from an off-campus team party held on the night of March 13, 2006.

In the hours after the party, one of the two black dancers hired to perform for the players claimed she had been violently raped in a bathroom by members of the lacrosse team. The three players, all of whom were white, were ultimately indicted for first degree rape, a charge that was dismissed on Dec. 22, 2006.

Defense attorneys for the three players intend to hold a press conference near the attorney general's office shortly after Cooper announces the outcome of the case. The players and their families will attend and each one of the players will likely read a written statement.

When Cooper's office took control of the case, the state's top prosecutor said that "anything could happen" in their investigation, including a total reinstatement of the rape charge that Nifong had already let go.

At the time, Nifong's attorney told ABC News that the prosecutor understood he would be "more a hindrance than a help" as the case proceeded. Still, Freedman also denied that Nifong dropped the case because he had lost faith in the merit of the charges. From the early days after the party, Nifong was outspoken in his confidence that the accused Duke players had commited a crime.

While the three accused lacrosse players may find some closure with the charges dropped, Nifong's fate remains unclear -- he could lose his license to practice law in North Carolina due to the ethics charges.

The reasons that the Attorney General's office will cite for the dismissal are not yet known, but the charges of the accuser and case brought forward by Nifong have been riddled with criticism since the early months after the party.

Defense attorneys have released documents detailing how the accuser changed key details in her story in the weeks and months after the alleged assault.

Legal analysts and forensic experts have criticized what they call a critically flawed photo identification lineup -- a lineup that led to the identification and indictment of Evans, Finnerty, Seligmann. No DNA evidence was found matching any lacrosse players with samples from the rape kit, while DNA from unidentified men was found on the accuser's body and clothing.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General confirmed to ABC News that his office had completed its investigation into the Duke lacrosse case.

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