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Lacrosse Player's Attorney Seeks Evidence About Alleged Rape Victim

Posted April 24, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— The defense attorney for a Duke University lacrosse player charged with raping an exotic dancer at a team party last month wants the state to provide details about the health, legal and educational background of the accuser, which will "provide rich sources of information for impeaching the complaining witness."

The motion, filed Monday by Kirk Osborn, who represents indicted lacrosse player Reade Seligmann, also asks the court to schedule a pretrial reliability hearing to "determine if the complaining witness is even credible enough to provide reliable testimony."

"This request is based on the fact that the complaining witness has a history of criminal activity and behavior, which includes alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and dishonesty, all conduct which indicate mental, emotional and/or physical problems, which affect her credibility as a witness," the motion states.

Osborn writes that no forensic evidence links Seligmann to the alleged crimes, according to the limited information provided to the defense by prosecutors. The case is based on eyewitness testimony from the accuser, he states.

The motion adds that the material provided by the state is "inconsistent, and sources indicate the complaining witness has more (than) one version of her story." It asks for information concerning the accuser's mental health, any hospital commitments and drug-abuse history, as well as education, probation and parole, and Department of Social Service records.

The motion does not cite any specific evidence to support its claims about the accuser, and Osborn declined to answer questions about the motions.

Defense attorneys have previously trumpeted DNA test results they said found no link between the 46 players tested and the accuser. Nifong asked a private lab to perform additional tests on the samples. The results are not expected before May 15, Nifong told a Durham newspaper at a weekend campaign event.

Monday's motion is the latest sign the defense plans to attack the credibility of the accuser, a 27-year-old single mother and student at North Carolina Central University.

Before last week's indictments, attorneys for the players pointed to the victim's criminal history when answering questions about their clients' legal troubles.

According to court records, the accuser stole the taxi of a man to whom she was giving a lap dance at a Durham strip club in June 2002. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of larceny, speeding to elude arrest, assault on a government official and driving while impaired, and spent some weekends in jail.

Also Monday, Osborn told the court in a separate motion he planned to present an alibi defense, based on the testimony of witnesses who are "known to, or should have been known by, the district attorney." The defense has suggested a timeline that argues if the dancers were performing around midnight, Seligmann left the party before having enough time to participate in the 30-minute assault described by the accuser.

Osborn also asked for background information about any prospective prosecution witnesses in a third motion.

Last week, a grand jury indicted Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and sophomore lacrosse player Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y, on charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree forcible rape. They were indicted based on the victim's version of events about what happened in the house, as well as a photo lineup from which she identified them.

Authorities believe they were two of the three white men who the 27-year-old black single mother says raped her in a bathroom of a house March 14.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has said that he expects to charge another person in connection with the rape, but no other arrests have been made in the case.

Finnerty's attorney, Bill Cotter, did not return calls seeking comment Monday. Finnerty, charged last November with simple assault, is scheduled to appear Tuesday in a Washington courtroom for a status hearing in that case. He entered a diversion program, under which the charges would be dismissed after the completion of 25 hours of community service.

The agreement required Finnerty to refrain from committing any criminal offense, and a spokeswoman for Washington's U.S. Attorney's Office said last week authorities were considering revoking the diversion. The simple assault charge carries a potential penalty of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
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